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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Jazz

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The Jazz ran away with it in the Spurs first bad performance of the season.

Utah Jazz v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

I will admit that some of my unabashed enthusiasm is starting to wane. Four-game losing streaks will do that to you. Granted, most of, if not all, of these losses were to teams that are projected to be better than the Spurs, but first last three though, man, I was proud of those losses. I’d brag to my friends about those losses. I’d paint those losses in oils and hang them in the the Louvre. This loss? Well, this one was a stinker.

We live in a society now that’s built on takes. I recently wrote something along the lines of “the Spurs are going to win the championship this season” shortly after their noble and important triumph over the Grizzlies in game one. It was a good take! I was proud of it and I stand by it. If you don’t have the guts to point to the fences and call a championship shot after one game then you shouldn’t be in this business. Does it look great now a few weeks later while we’re all sitting here in the harsh light of a 2-4 record? Not particularly, but, the essence of the take remains.

That Spurs team we watched start the year was the first time in a long while that any of us felt like we could really let our imaginations run wild for a little bit. The Bubble Spurs were intriguing to be sure, but it was always going to be impossible to know how much of that was a mirage. Would any of that fast paced, wild horse enthusiasm translate out of the bubbly weirdness into an actual identity that both our young core and our rag tag crew of wily vets could rally around? The early returns seemed to be a resounding yes! After a few years wandering in the wilderness, the Spurs finally had a ship built that was ready to take them home.

Do these four losses negate all that optimism? No. Of course not. We’re all adults here. We understand things like small sample sizes and adaptive expectations. We’ve been schooled in all manner of Keynesian economic theory so we know not to overrate short term stagnation when projecting long term growth (this is not an invitation to fact check the depth of my understanding of Keynesian economic theory). We get it. We know things. The Spurs are still on track. The Spurs are going to be fine. All that happened here was that the Jazz shot 50% from three and the Spurs shot way less from out there. The Jazz shot 55% from the field and the Spurs shot way less. The Jazz scored 130 points and the Spurs...well, they scored way less.

Was this an off night or a sign of things to come? I don’t know. I’ve certainly seen this team play better but, also, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that they might find themselves on the wrong end of a bad shooting night/bad defense combo more often than we’d probably like. You throw in enough of those alongside the more standard fare of “hard fought close losses to tough teams” and you’ve got a pretty solid recipe for a young, likable team sitting at the bottom of a formidable Western Conference.

In all likelihood, this is going to be a year where the franchise takes some very real and very important steps forward. The young guys are going to grow and develop and evolve into better versions of themselves. They’re going to learn good lessons and hard lessons about playing in this league and they’re going to be better because of it. The coaching staff and front office are going to figure out exactly what kind of ammunition they have on their hands and they’re going to keep finding pieces to fill out the puzzle. I have every confidence in the world that when the dust settles we’re all going to look around and say to ourselves that we’re happy with the direction this boat is headed and we’re excited for what happens next. I also think that a very real and very important part of that process is that we’re going to have to sit through a few more outings like this in order to get where we want to be.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this was a bad night and maybe we should still start planning that championship boat parade.

You know...just in case.

Takeaways:

  • During the game on Wednesday, my buddy who is a Lakers fan sent me a text saying, “Who, and I cannot stress this enough, the hell is Keldon Johnson?” which made me cackle for a number of reasons. Imagine living in a world where you hadn’t been paying attention to the fact that Keldon Johnson was gearing up to take this league by storm? Couldn’t be me! This season is surely going to have its ups and downs, but the idea that we get to spend the year watching KJ take people by surprise every night is going to be a constant delight. Are we sold on Big Body as a nickname? I wasn’t at first but it’s growing on me. Big Body. BIG....body. Big...BODY. Yea, ok, Big Body. Let’s go.
  • I was tempted to turn the game off after the first quarter because if I was going to have to sit there and watch the Jazz run that little “drive into the lane and hit a floater or lob it to Rudy Gobert for a dunk” play over and over and over again while the Spurs just stood there being short and confused then I figured I probably had better things to do with my time. Thankfully, the Jazz decided to also mix in a few of the “don’t ever miss from three” plays just for variety’s sake.
  • Part of me wants to give the Spurs credit for continuing to fire away even in the midst of a truly horrendous shooting night but, also, a part of me feels like that’s dumb. But what else were they going to do? Bring the ball down the court and just stand there till the clock ran out? Chunks of this game were exceptionally awful, qualifying as that rare confluence of basketball that’s equal parts bad and boring. I could’ve been learning how to sew or how to speak Danish or something else useful but instead I sat there and watched my dudes invent new and exciting ways to throw a basketball against the side of the rim. (Sometimes it’s difficult to shake this sneaking suspicion I get that sports are dumb.
  • All of the reasons that LaMarcus Aldridge is maybe not the best fit for this team as currently constructed still exist and are still real, but, the value of having someone like LaMarcus Aldridge in your lineup when playing against teams with Anthony Davis or Rudy Gobert sure has seemed relevant lately. Frankly, the value of simply not having two of your best players out with injuries is also coming through loud and clear at the moment. Pretty cruel of the universe to give us a brief look at Derrick White out there on Wednesday and then swiftly snatching him away. Again.....it’s possible that sports are dumb.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- Always hard to write about a loss, how are you feeling about this post?

- Well, you know, when the shots aren’t falling you have to dig deep and try to find a way to win. I guess time will tell whether or not any of this resonated with the readers, but I think I’m happy with the way I competed out there.

- You seem to be shuttering your earlier, unbridled enthusiasm for the season for a more measured approach to the likely outcome for this Spurs team, are you worried that the readers might find this disingenuous?

- I wouldn’t say I’m shuttering my enthusiasm, no, I just...look, sometimes you’re handed a 20 point loss and the law requires you to cool your jets just a little. I don’t think that’s disingenuous so much as it’s playing the hand your dealt.

- Before we go, real quick, can you explain to me what you think Keynesian economic theory is?

- I’d love to. See... what’s that? We’re out of time? Shoot, sorry, we’ll pick this up next time. I’m so sorry.