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What We Learned from the Spurs Win over the Raptors

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After their first two games, the Spurs look ... pretty good?

Toronto Raptors v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

After watching the first game of the season, I emphatically declared that the Spurs were probably going to win the title this year. It’s important to get on the record early like that but, also, it’s just really fun to overreact to the first game of the season. Everything is new and hopeful, nobody is quite the team they’re going to be yet, and it feels invigorating to just lean into the blind optimism of something new because, why not? Game 1 is a glorified exhibition.
But we all know that game 2 is where you find out if your team is actually going to win a championship this year!

So, what do we think? Is this the real life or is this just fantasy? The whole thing certainly feels pretty exciting right now and I, for one, am starting to find it hard to figure out where my ironic overconfidence ends and my earnest optimism begins. My rational brain is extremely aware of this team’s limitations and the abundance of monsters lurking down the road (Why, hello there back-to-back games against the Lakers right around the corner), but the soft, goopy other side of my brain that’s still high on Christmas magic is kind of freaking out at the moment.

I really like this team! I haven’t crunched the numbers or run any models or thought about this from an analytical perspective, I just...like the dudes. Every time I start thinking about Dejounte Murray or Lonnie Walker or Keldon Johnson, a big smile creeps on to my face. When I see DeMar DeRozan making it his personal mission to outshine all 81 players that ESPN put in front of him on their Top 100 List it makes me want to run through a brick wall for him. When Patty Mills is almost literally becoming a perfect basketball player in front of our eyes it almost seems like I can feel the heat radiating off him through the TV screen. The Spurs are fun right now, I have no idea if they are actually good, but I’m also finding it hard to care.

It has been pointed out by a number of people that last season began with the Spurs starting 3-0 before getting hit in the face with the cold, sobering waters of reality. It’s a really good point and the only actual counterargument I have is..so what? Who cares? When (if???!?!?) the Spurs come crashing back to earth this season then I am sure we will cover it here in exhaustive detail. We will chronicle the pain and the mistakes. We will examine the shortcomings. We will lament the missed opportunities. We will shout at the heavens. What we’re not going to do is waste the good times worrying about the bad times. I refuse.

Let the coaching staff worry about about the transition defense. Let the front office worry about the cap space. Right now, the Spurs are young and promising. The Spurs are weird and cool. The Spurs are fun. If you’re focused on anything else, then I’m not sure why you’re even here in the first place.

Takeaways:

  • I really missed the fans in this one. Can you imagine how rowdy the ATT Center would’ve been down the stretch? I can’t stop thinking about it. One of my favorite plays in basketball is a momentum changing offensive foul and we had one of those tonight. About a minute left in the game, Spurs down 4, and Pascal Siakam tried to split the defenders and instead of slipping past into the lane Patty gets there just in time. The ref on the far side of the court wasted no time emphatically pointing the other way and all of a sudden, the whole temperature of the building changes. I always feel like home crowds get especially hype about that kind of play because they’re such an unexpected treat. There’s a special kind of howl that gets unleashed and I missed that tonight. Adding it to my list of grievances for 2020.
  • If DeMar’s going to hit 3 or 4 triples every game then every one else might be in big trouble. He’s always been a high volume scorer, but he does seem a little more free than usual right now. It’s like he’s stopped having to worry about being “perfect” in order for the team to succeed, but is instead just focusing on maximizing what he can do within the flow of the game and trusting that it’s going to work out. I’ve always felt like his reluctance to shoot threes has come from this mindset of, like “I’m not great at that so when I shoot them it’s a waste and I can’t waste anything, the team needs me to be perfect.” Right now, it looks like he might be finally buying in a little more to just taking what the defense gives him. If he can get to the basket, great. If he’s got an easy mid-range, take it. If you happen to be beyond the arc all alone...let it fly. The entire team looks this way to be honest. Everything is flowing and the passes are whipping around and, frankly, I think it might be hard not to pull the trigger when you can catch and shoot with that kind of rhythm, regardless of where you are on the court.
  • This was a weirdly comforting game from LaMarcus for me? I know his final stats were not ideal, but I think it’s good for him to see that the team can pull out a win when he’s not lighting it up out there and I similarly think it’s good that he didn’t seem to be shying away from opportunities. Yea, he’s not really hitting from three yet, but he’s still taking those shots and this offense needs him taking those shots whether they go in or not. It frees up the floor, it keeps the defense honest and helps the offense stay in that whirring, buzzing around mode we’re all so fond of at the moment. I feel confident LaMarcus is going to figure it out, he’s one of the best shooting big men in the game and, look, if Aron Freakin’ Baynes can become an above average threat from deep then I’m pretty sure LMA can do some damage back there. Give it time.
  • So it turns out Keldon Johnson’s big thing is driving into the lane, jumping up, and bouncing his body into a defender and then just...continuing to hang out in the air while making the shot? It’s unclear to me how he does this but I’m a huge fan. It’s almost like he absorbs the power of whoever is trying to block his shot and just redirects it down into whatever magics he’s using to stay afloat. He’s ALSO established himself as yet another young Spur who likes to throw down big ol’ monster yams so...did I mention that the Spurs are fun right now?


WWL Post Game Press Conference

- So you’re really just going to lean into blind optimism thing right now?

- Until given a reason not to, yea. I don’t really see any other options.

- I’m checking the records and it looks like after starting the season undefeated last season, you wrote on this very website that you were worried that your “favorite team might just be gaslighting you”, are there any similar concerns like that this year?

- Look, I’m not here to talk about the past. We’re focused on this season right now. We’re taking it one game at a time and, you know, now we’re moving on to New Orleans.

- Do you think people understood the Bohemian Rhapsody reference in the second paragraph? Are you worried that people might think you just talk like that?

- I have every faith that the PtR readers are learned scholars of popular culture and, frankly, if anyone happened to assume I talked like Freddie Mercury sang, then I would take it as the highest of compliments.

- I noticed that, once again, you failed to mention anything about the team’s obvious defensive shortcomings in this post. Do you have any plans to address those in the future?

- I don’t appreciate your tone. THIS INTERVIEW IS OVER.