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The Spurs aren’t broken, just unfinished

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The Spurs come out slow, lose to Curry-led Warriors, 121-99

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure what to say. What do you want me to say? I always try to stay at least somewhat positive. I try to remind myself and the readers that this is a process. The San Antonio Spurs we see right now on the court are a work in progress. As Amanda Gorman said in her poem about our country at the inauguration “Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished” the same can be said about the Spurs.

I watched this game in a dejected stupor. I was upset at what I was watching, but it all made sense. This is an ever improving, but still ultimately flawed team. Tonight every single flaw was exposed to the fullest.

Any team with an athletic and skilled big man will give the Spurs fits. We’ve seen it all season so far. They lost two games in a row at home to the Lakers who have Anthony Davis. They got blown out by the Jazz and had no answer for Rudy Gobert lobs, or his defensive presence. Karl Anthony-Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves took them to overtime with Towns basically playing with one hand and they helped Christian Wood look like an all-star. We all got excited about a blowout victory over the Blazers, but that was done with Blazer big man Jusef Nurkic out with a wrist injury.

I know I said I wanted to stay positive, and my general feeling about the team is positive. That doesn’t mean I can’t point to the gaping hole in the front court. Jakob Poeltl tries hard and there is a lot to like about him, but he can’t really keep up with the top tier big men. We all know about LaMarcus Aldridge. He’s been complained about enough and I won’t pile on. That being said the team isn’t broken, it’s unfinished.

Shooting 4/33 from 3-point range as a team doesn’t help either. I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating that, outside of Patty Mills, the Spurs don’t really have any true knockdown shooters. They have a nice collection of capable shooters. If any of them shot 4/6 or 0/6 from three you wouldn’t really be surprised. At least I wouldn’t be. I look at it like this. Going into a game I say to myself that it would be nice if one of them got hot from the outside, but I never expect it. When Patty shoots I always feel that he’s going to make it. When the other guys shoot I’m full of hope, but still on the edge of my seat. That isn’t to say none of them will get there, they just aren’t there yet. They aren’t broken, just unfinished.

The main thing I see the Spurs are lacking that the Warriors stars have, is big game experience. That matters. The Spurs have DeRozan and Aldridge who have done some nice things in the league, but they don’t have 5 straight finals appearances like Stephan Curry and Draymond Green do. The best way to learn what to do on a basketball court is to be a part of it happening on a basketball court. Steph and Draymond have about an entire extra season of playoff game experience. They have probably seen almost anything that can happen on that court. The Spurs simply don’t have that. They are learning and we can see them learning.

Early in the game Keldon Johnson was guarding Draymond Green. I forget who, but someone on the Warriors had the ball at the top. Curry set a screen for Green on Keldon. Keldon tried to go over the screen but that left the lane wide open for Green who caught a pass and scored an easy layup. On the Warriors very next possession they tried the exact same play. This time Keldon went under the screen and cut Draymond off and the pass wasn’t open. Sometimes you have to get burned to get better. The Spurs aren’t broken, just unfinished.

Game notes

  • I’d like to further my discussion on Keldon Johnson. He had a rough game tonight. It was rough from the beginning. After he missed his first two shots, the second being an air ball, I wrote down in my notes, “Keldon slow start”. I wasn’t wrong and unfortunately it didn’t get much better. Here is what gives me never ending hope about Keldon though. That man never, ever quits. In the 4th quarter of a hopeless game he just kept taking the ball hard to the hole and drawing fouls. Even after taking a forearm to the face he never quit. His most admirable effort came with less than a minute left in the game. Keldon drove to the basket and missed a layup. He went after the rebound and knocked it away from a Warrior player and amidst the scramble dove on the ground for the ball. The Spurs were down more than 20 points and there were 45 seconds left in the game and Keldon is still out there diving for loose balls. I love that man.
  • I am generally not one to ever question coaches decisions. I don’t come close to knowing what they know and I don’t pretend to. However, I was curious to see that toward the end of the 1st quarter the Spurs had Patty Mills matched up defensively on Stephen Curry. Patty is great and always gives maximum effort, but he is limited on defense. Him guarding Curry went pretty much how you would expect it to go. However, this did lead to one of Devin Vassell’s best defensive plays of the season so far. Mills drove for a layup and ended up on the floor. With Patty behind the play Vassell had to pick up Curry bringing the ball up the court. Curry tried to drive on him, but as they got under the hoop Devin snatched the ball out of his hands for what should have been a steal but ended up being a jump ball. I can’t wait for Vassell to start getting more minutes and getting the task of shutting down the other teams star. He’s like the basketball version of a shut down cornerback. You don’t want to send the ball his way.
  • I don’t like complaining about refs. I never blame the loss of a game on them. Though there is one thing I really want to get off my chest. It only happened once this game but it is a league wide thing that I really wish would stop. Early in the game Steph got his man in the air and did that thing where the shooter jumps into the defender to draw contact and a foul. Luckily our guy avoided contact, but how is this not an offensive foul? It happens all the time and I hate it. The shooter is not performing a natural basketball move. He’s clearly initiating contact. I dare one official to do the right thing and call this an offensive foul. I’m not too big on rule changes, but this one would make my heart happy.

Thank you for listening. I’ll see you guys on Friday.

Next game

Friday, January 22nd vs Dallas Mavericks @7:30 (I think. I’m on the west coast. Its 5:30 for me)