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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Thunder

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The Spurs continue to zig every time it seems they are ready to zag.

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The Spurs have finally entered that fun liminal space where I can no longer tell what I’m even rooting for on any given night. I say “fun” because if I say “exasperating” or “infuriating to the point of making me question my life choices” then that might be too much of a bummer for you to keep reading this, so for now I think we’ll stick with “fun.”

A liminal space is loosely defined (by the Internet, of course) as a phase of transition. A way station located squarely between the end of something old and the beginning of something new. In theory, this period is a waiting room of sorts. A threshold located squarely between what you once were and what you are going to be. Think about the time you spend in an elevator going from one floor to the next or the time a college grad spends backpacking in Europe for a year before he becomes an investment banker. Nothing of real importance happens, but a necessary step on the road to something new.

This season feels increasingly liminal, to the point that the actual results can feel confusing. As of Thursday morning, the Spurs had somehow managed to crawl their way into the 8th seed. Naturally, my instinct when hearing this was to rejoice. The playoff streak is alive and well and maybe, just maybe, this season might have a few meaningful moments tucked away down the stretch for us. This is what we watch sports for in the first place, right? It’s the competition, it’s the drive to win, it’s the...uh, you know, huzzah of it all.

But then, what if making the playoffs messes everything up? What do we really get out of making the playoffs anyway? Another year on that great hamster wheel in purgatory called “being an okay NBA team”? There’s a greater than zero chance that making the playoffs this year would involve having to suffer through being eliminated in the 1st round by Kawhi Leonard in a Clipper uniform which is fate that could only be dreamt up in the most haunted regions of a tortured mind.

The whispers around these parts of a potential “tank” are growing louder by the day. Perhaps what the Spurs really need is a few laps in the so-bad-it’s-good pool. After all, the scouts are raving about Top High School Prospect _________ and Top Overseas Prospect _________. I’m even hearing a lot of good things about Top College player _________ and you know, we should be looking into these guys very strongly in (ahem) my opinion.

But then, what do we make of this game on Thursday night? Are we mad about it, or was it all part of the plan? They certainly played a better brand basketball for the first half of this game than they have for most of this season. They stretched the floor a little bit, they had runs of stingy defense, and we even got to see some interesting lineup pairings that involved the young guys we’ve been dying to see get minutes all year. Shoot, LaMarcus Aldridge is morphing into a legitimate three point threat before our very eyes! You couple all of this together with the fact that they went on and lost the game in service of all things Tank-ish and you’ve essentially got a perfect Spurs experience! Wait a minute....

Night in and night out, I find this team to just be maddening to think about because nothing they are doing adds up logically. They have somehow managed to be just good enough to live on the knife’s edge of either being relevant to this current NBA season or descending into total mediocrity. I think I could handle either option, honestly, but the in between is starting to get to me. Like, if they string together two weeks of good basketball, hang out in the 6th spot in the Western Conference, I can 100% talk myself into why continuing to build a culture of winning games is an important part of the DNA of the franchise. If they lose every game between now and a February, then I can make my peace with a lost cause, pack everyone’s bags for trade season, and just watch Lonnie Walker IV highlights for the rest of year. This liminal space is driving me nuts. I’m tired of the waiting. I’m tired of stuff not making sense.

The Spurs lost on Thursday night. As of Friday morning, they’re still in the 8th seed.

Yay?

Takeaways:

  • The first 9 points of the game for the Spurs consisted of a LaMarcus Aldridge three, a DeMar DeRozan three, and another LaMarcus Aldridge three. How do you think I felt about this sequence of events? Betrayed? Bewildered? I know I should’ve been happy, but isn’t there a part of you that watches them do things like this and just wants to shout at the TV “but why not all the time could you be doing this please?!?” Imagine a world where those guys just rained threes all the time. Imagine what the Spurs could do with something like that. I’m sure there are reasons why it doesn’t happen that are beyond my understanding and I guess I just have to sit here and be okay with it. Sports are great. This is one of my hobbies that I do for fun. I’m having fun right now. This is what fun is. It’s fun to have fun.
  • I love nights where Bryn Forbes is feeling it. He’s one of those Irrational Confidence guys that you hear about and when he sees a few go in that confirms his own mindset, its genuinely one of the most thrilling things that happens in a Spurs jersey these days. He just turns into a ball of swagger. He beats his chest and gets in guy’s faces and generally just acts like he owns the place. I love it so much. I absolutely believe that every team needs someone like this and I’m happy the Bryn Forbes is ours. Anyway. Tonight was, uh, not one of those nights.
NBA.com
  • I had this weird thing happen during this game over and over where I kept saying to myself, “Man, that guy running point for the Thunder really reminds me of Chris Paul.” It’s still so strange to me that he’s been somewhat banished to playing out his career in OKC. I’ve never been a massive CP3 fan by any stretch of the imagination, but for better or worse he has been one of the most exciting players to watch in my lifetime and it just feels odd to me that he isn’t really a part of the conversation anymore. I know there’s a hundred different reasons it’s worked out the way that it has, but I still wish he was out there being a nemesis somewhere. He was a great nemesis.
  • TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: The last time I wrote about a Spurs game, Timmy wore my least favorite outfit in his entire wardrobe. White shirt. Black coat. Grey slacks. A diabolically boring collection of clothing items. Since that game on December 23rd, he has pulled off a number of incredible fits. There was the beautiful Raspberry blazer he donned for the Boxing Day matchup against the Mavericks or the Grey Blue/Pink shirt combo he put together against the Pistons. Even his New Year’s Eve attire, a simple little Light Blue blazer, White shirt, Khakis ensemble, was a wonderful statement of fashion intent from a man who has long been derided as simply “fundamental” in the sartorial department. I was excited to write about his choices for Thursday’s game. I was pumped to continue to extol the virtues of a man I’ve long admired continuing to find ways to expand his horizons as he pushed forth into a new phase of life. Alas, dear reader, you can probably guess what combination he wore for this game. White shirt. Black coat. Grey slacks. It’s like he knew. There I was about to sit down on the bench and he sneakily put a cup under my butt at the last second. So disappointing. You’d think that Timmy, of all people, could empathize with how the pain of getting pranked like this.