I did not have a lot of confidence that the Spurs were going to pull this one off. Literally 24 hours prior we watched a similar scenario play out before our eyes and it just super didn’t go well, did it? I was scared. I watched the entire second half through my fingers just waiting for the the inevitable to play out and then, lo and behold, the ship just never sank. It sprang some leaks, it took on some water, but here we are still floating along the next day. So, what do we make of that?
I know everyone’s expectations for this season are lowering by the minute, but the losing streak has just been brutal. I haven’t felt this down about the Spurs since, well, since last year’s Rodeo Road Trip. Remember that one? The one where they took a 1-5 record into Madison Square Garden, lost to a league worst New York Knicks, and then got made fun of by Samuel L. Jackson at the Oscars? Woof. Never mind, last year’s road trip definitely still holds the belt for “lowest moment”, but this one is no slouch! Each loss has been it’s own special type of awful and yet, even with the slow drip of defeats, that elusive playoff spot still feels like a remarkably tangible goal. I think that makes it worse? Like, if they’re going to be bad, don’t you wish the whole thing would just go belly up and we wouldn’t have to deal with all this pesky hoping and dreaming? I know I would.
The hope is, infuriatingly, still there though. It has no right to be, but it is. They are 4.5 games back with 28 games left to play. They might need some lucky bounces along the way, but anyone who thinks they know how the league is going to twist and turn down the stretch is lying. Can the young Grizz keep this up? Can Damian Lillard keep turning into a superhero every night? Can the Mavs fall apart after the All-Star break for old times sake? Only time will tell.
The truth is that none of it matters if the Spurs don’t slap together a few more performances like they did again’t the Thunder. Outside of the little wobble there in the 3rd quarter, everyone looked remarkably competent out there. They shot the ball well, executed defensively, and let one of their stars calmly ice the game down the stretch. They had every opportunity to dissolve into a puddle when the going got tough but instead, the tough got going. It was a nice change of pace. Frankly, if I hadn’t spent the entire game anticipating a disaster it might’ve been a pretty boring affair.
I want to say this is repeatable. I want to say that now that they’ll get to bank a few more games at home, this nose dive will seem like a blip. I want to say that the Spurs have shown what they are capable of now and all they need to do is go out and execute. I want to say all of that. I won’t though. We all know the drill by now. Going on about a season and a half now, this franchise has been in full Jekyll & Hyde mode, staggering back and forth between extreme competency and woeful ineptitude at an alarming rate. There are no trends to analyze. No trustworthy upticks or dispiriting downswings. Only chaos, from one night to the next.
It’s not boring, that’s for sure.
- I said earlier that the Spurs leaned on LaMarcus Aldridge down the stretch and it’s the truth. He was a wonderful, steadying presence. He scored 12 of his 25 points during that frame and he did it all by doing what he does best, working hard in the post and draining silky little jumpers. I definitely miss the torrid three-point shooting LaMarcus from a few weeks ago, but it’s still pretty thrilling to watch him throw out a dominant, old school post performance from time to time. It’s like eating a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and being launched into a sense memory where you’re 8 years old, your back doesn’t hurt and you don’t have any bills to pay. Is that not what happens to you when you eat a pb&j? Just me?
- LaMarcus also had help down the stretch from an extremely good and fun version of Dejounte Murray, who had probably one of his best games as a professional in this one. He had 25 points but, almost more importantly, he did it going 9 of 12 from the field and 6 of 6 at the line. That is a remarkable level of efficiency that we don’t get to see from him all the time and it’s definitely one of those things where you remember, “Oh yeah, this kid might be the future.” Everyone’s going to talk about his very cool dunk to ice the game (because it was very cool) but all the indie, hipster Dejounte fans out there are going wild about the underrated deep cut, “fully putting Luguentz Dort on the dang ground.” Sure, he missed the shot to finish it, but still...this is the good stuff right here.
- It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the Spurs don’t win games unless Patty Mills plays well. I don’t know how to parlay this information into anything useful, but it seems pretty important. You can’t really play him more minutes because the minutes aren’t the issue. He’s right where he needs to be it’s just that, sometimes he has it and sometimes he doesn’t. When he does? Man, when he does it feels like every combination of guys he plays with has a little extra sparkle going and when he doesn’t it’s like every lineup is a soda that’s lost it’s fizz. Again, I don’t know how to guarantee a situation in which Patty is scoring 20 points a night and if I did I would be knocking down Gregg Popovich’s door and demanding a job. Maybe certain teams play him a certain way and others don’t pay him enough attention. Maybe I need to stop talking about how great Patty is so teams will just keep overlooking him and, aw man, I’ve said too much already, haven’t I?
- TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: It was pointed out on Twitter last night that this was Timmy’s first game back in Oklahoma City since, well, since this. Understandably then, it’s easy to imagine why he decided to rock his more somber attire to the arena versus something a little more flashy. It’s also easy to imagine Timmy not putting much thought into the decision and simply throwing on whatever he had clean at the end of a long stretch on the road. The mysteries of how Tim Duncan’s mind works are something well beyond my pay grade, but I still like to put myself in his rather large shoes from time to time. What do you wear to the site of your last professional basketball game? Do you even care? When you’ve played thousands of games in your life, maybe it’s hard to really put too much significance on a single one, regardless of where it fell on the timeline. Perhaps, it’s something that’s just awash in the many memories, both good and bad, that fill up a player’s career over the years. Like most guys in the league, Tim had more seasons that ended in a loss than ones that ended in a win and dwelling on the pain doesn’t change it. The best we can do sometimes is to just put on a suit and go to work.