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What We Learned from the Spurs win over the Mavericks

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A surprisingly resilient Spurs team (re)appears.

Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

So you’re telling me that inserting one of our best players into the starting lineup can really change the whole dynamic of the team, eh? Interesting theory. Obviously I’d like to see a little more evidence if we’re going to prove this particular hypothesis, but I do think you might be on to something. Maybe next time we’ll try it out with an entire roster of healthy players. Who knows what kind of fun surprises that might yield!

Nights like this are obviously fun or, at the very least, they are much preferable to whatever it was we were subjected to in the last two times we sat down to watch the Spurs. This was a fun, resilient team that was probably less talented than their opponent, but was at least game for a fight. They were playing good basketball and making the Mavericks work for everything — and they looked like they were having fun doing it. Had they not been able to pull off a win in this one, I think we all still would’ve still walked away from it feeling pretty good.

The flip side to all these warm fuzzies is that you kind of can’t help wondering why can’t it look like this more often. The NBA season is a grind, even more so when you aren’t necessarily in the thick of things from a competitive standpoint, but it’s still disappointing to know that your guys are capable of playing like this and also know that sometimes, well, they kind of just don’t. To be clear, I’m not saying they should be winning every game they play. I’m not even saying their record should be all that different than it is now. However, this particular Spurs team — more than any other I’ve watched in my entire conscious life as a fan — regularly fails to show up. Sometimes it’s for key stretches, a whole half, or even an entire game.

Maybe this wouldn’t bug me so much if it didn’t stand out in such stark contrast to how it looks when they flip the switch back on. Against Dallas, it felt like we were watching an entirely different team. There just seemed to be an extra gear for every guy that stepped on the floor. All the little things were being taken care of. Rebounds were chased after, loose balls we’re gobbled up, help side defense was always there. Every time the Mavericks tried to land a knockout blow, our guys just came right back and threw a punch of their own. I loved it so much. All the affection I want to feel (all the affection I do feel) for these guys came rushing back over the course of this game and I just...I’m not mad, you guys, I just want to love you. LET ME LOVE YOU!

I’m not ignorant to the large number of variables that are clearly factors on any given night. It’s hard to bring it on the road sometimes. It’s hard when the guys are coming in and out of the lineup every night. It’s hard when one of your team leaders misses five games. It’s hard when you keep facing squads who just have more talent. Maybe it’s easy to play David against Goliath every once in a while, but that’s a tough mantle to assume over and over again. The NBA is a brutal league and it wears down even the best players. I’m sympathetic to this and, honestly, it’s not like I want these guys to just be emotionless robots out there who are impervious to the ups and downs of life.

I just want to see Tuesday’s version of the team more often. I have zero illusions about how this season is going to end, but I don’t think I have a very high tolerance for the concept of just playing out the string. These games have value. Every single time they step on the floor is an opportunity to learn what they have and what they’re capable of and what kind of team they’re trying to build for the future. Watching games like the ones in Brooklyn or Cleveland can make you feel helpless as a fan. It’s almost like everything is just stuck in neutral.

Watching a game like this one against Dallas makes it seem like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The light might be pretty far down the line, but at least it’s out there. I’m not asking that the Spurs get there right away or anything, I just want to be able to see it as regularly as possible.

Takeaways:

  • What a joy it was to have LaMarcus Aldridge back in the lineup for this one. I think sometimes it’s easy to have a mindset that missing one player really shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it’s actually somewhat reassuring to see just how much of a difference one of your best players can make. Our best players make the team better! In addition to leading the team in scoring, LaMarcus also lead the team in enormously endearing high fives and smiles during the 4th quarter and if that doesn’t warm your heart a little bit then you’re probably doing this wrong.
  • There was a stretch early in the 4th where close, personal friend of the Spurs Family Boban Marjanovic was out there for a little longer than he probably should’ve been and it happened to coincide with a 10-0 run that finally put the Spurs out in front. Was I grateful for the run? Absolutely. Was I sad that it came at the expense of Boban? Extremely. Spoiler alert for, uh, anyone who still hasn’t seen the Matrix yet (you’ve had 20 years, you know), but I felt like I spent the entire run shaking my head like Switch right before Cypher pulled the data probe from her headjack. “not like this........not like this...”
  • I think I may have forgotten how fast Derrick White is. I think it’s one of those things that I know he can do and I just lose track of it when I haven’t seen it recently enough. There was a moment in the 4th where LaMarcus stripped Boban (sigh) and Derrick snagged the loose ball. He headed down the court looking to push the pace and scanning the court for options. He definitely assumed the Mavs would collapse on him any second and he would would just kick it out. You can see him looking for this and then, right around when he passes over the mid-court logo, he just realizes that there’s no one in front of him and there’s not gonna be anyone in front him for the foreseeable future. Then he just explodes. It’s such an absurd burst of speed that I had a hard time processing in real time. In my opinion, I think we should be running the “Derrick White sprints the entire length of the floor” play more often.
  • No one else has to like this, but I still get a visceral thrill from Marco Belinelli being guarded by a 6’7 dude and 7’4 dude and deciding, “you know what, Ima launch this.” I SAID YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIKE IT, but come on, things like this shouldn’t work and more often than not they don’t but....when they do? I mean, this is art. This is a double rainbow. This is the Aurora Borealis. You’re welcome to spend your precious moments on this earth being annoyed at Marco, I’ll just be over here having my heart overflowing with wonder and joy at the majesty of universe.
  • TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: I absolutely adore this look from Tim. It’s maybe an underdog candidate for one of my favorites of the year. The color on this jacket is doing the exact right amount of work and pairing it with these slacks that sort of straddle the line between light charcoal and an olive green? Beautiful. I mean, this is a masterclass in taking neutral colors and putting them to work. We all love a little color in our lives and Tim taking a step out into Raspberry or Periwinkle or what have you is always very exciting, but executing a look like this makes it clear as to the level of “Sharp Dressed Man” work that’s going on. Tim also just looks great in this tan, goldish jacket. He’s practically glowing. They say the clothes don’t make the man, but the man? Well, the man makes all the difference.
Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images