Remember in the second Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers, when Saruman’s Uruk hai were attacking Helm’s Deep? The defending Rohirrim people were terrified and all hope was lost. One of King Theoden’s top men began questioning the King’s decision saying, “we cannot defeat the armies of Mordor.” Theoden turned to the man and in a voice loud enough for all around to hear said, “No. We Cannot. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless”.
That was the exact feeling I had going into Friday’s game.
Let’s be honest. The Spurs were not going to win this game. That’s not why we watched. We watched to see if our guys were up to the challenge and find out how wide the gap is between them and the very best.
Against the Lakers they showed they were more than up to the challenge. Especially Keldon Johnson. Just like the first game versus the Lakers he attacked immediately drove hard to the basket on the first possession. Instead of a dunk, this time he drew a foul on Anthony Davis. He never stopped playing hard and finished with a 26 point 10 rebound double-double.
Unfortunately, on the Lakers first possession we learned there is a big difference between a young man and a grown man. Keldon Johnson is a stout and sturdy guy, but LeBron James showed Keldon just how far he still had to go by easily backing the young man down beneath the basket and scoring an easy layup.
But cut the kid some slack. Keldon Johnson is only in his second year in the NBA. He’s already a tank and now has access to some of the best nutrition and training money can buy. He’s going to be a beast. And a beast with finesse too. He hit 5/9 three pointers vs. the Lakers and is now shooting over 40% from downtown in this young season. It’s a small sample size, but it’s fun the think about.
Size still matters in the NBA. The Spurs fun and fast lineups left them vulnerable to giving up offensive rebounds to the Lakers long and active frontcourt. The Lakers had 16 of them. Anthony Davis had 7 by himself.
Is he not the most demoralizing player in the league? He’s so huge and athletic and long. There are no easy rebounds against him. He gets a hand on almost everything that comes near him. Then he’ll step out behind the arc and start nailing 3s with ease. What are you supposed to do against this man?
Of Jakob Poeltl’s 5 rebounds only two were defensive. Those are supposed to be the easy ones. But can you blame the guy? He’s having to deal with super athlete Anthony Davis down low. Then hear come seven footer, Marc Gasol. And to top it off there’s Montrezl Harrell, who plays basketball seemingly fueled by nothing but rage and anger.
Despite the struggles in the rebounding department. I’m happy. I’m so, so, happy. You guys. Derrick White is back. When I saw him walking on the court my heart grew three sizes. He’s so fun to watch and showed why as soon as he walked onto the court. He and Dejounte pressed the Lakers on an inbound pass and Kuzma threw it through Harrell’s hands and out of bounds for a turnover. Soon after he hit his first three of the season and followed it up on defense by cleanly swatting the ball away from LeBron as he drove to the basket. He only had 9 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist, but he is the epitome of the guy that does things that don’t show up in the box score.
I hesitate to start this next part for fear of not explaining myself real good. One of the biggest elements to playing against star players is the advantageous treatment they seem to get from the referees. Whether we like it or not, it happens. I’m not okay with it, but I get it and accept it’s reality in how basketball is refereed. I mean, I rooted for the Sacramento Kings vs the 2002 Los Angeles Lakers. If anybody should be bitter about star treatment it’s me and my fellow “cow town” citizens.
Star treatment, however, is not insurmountable. The Spurs had chances to make LeBron pushing off on Derrick White less devastating. In the closing minute, in a tie game, LeBron drove to the hoop and either got his shot blocked or just missed a layup. Either way the ball found its way into Anthony Davis’s hands for another offensive rebound and a two point lead. Nobody boxes out.
The Spurs had a chance to tie after that but DeMar air balled a 15 footer from the baseline which led to the LeBron/ Derrick White no call. You can’t give up offensive rebounds and shoot air balls in crunch time. No matter how the refs call the game.
This is getting too harsh. That’s not what I intended. All things considered, the Spurs played a great game. They competed and went back and forth for 4 quarters with the champs. I watched this game curious as to how the Spurs looked against the NBA elite. I’m not disappointed. Far from it. This is a really fun team to watch.
Sun. 1⁄3 @6pm vs. Utah Jazz