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What We Learned from the Spurs win over the Lakers

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A routine win against the defending champs leaves us more confused than ever about what these Spurs are capable of

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

I’m almost mad about it. You watch them play like this when you still have the stink of that blowout loss to the Jazz occupying real estate in your skull and you almost want to lash out and reject the positivity. This is a mirage. This is fantasy. I’ve seen too many errant threes careening off the side of the rim and I’ve watched too many Jazz players waltz into the paint and toss lobs to Rudy Golbert like they were playing against folding chairs to believe that any of this is real. I won’t get fooled again, not me, no sir. I’m too smart and my phaser is set to cynical.

Pretty fun game though, I’ll give them that. It’s always fun to beat the Lakers, and it’s always fun to beat the defending champs, and It’s always fun to beat LeBron. Shoot, and the fact that the boys went ahead and knocked all that out in one night is pretty special. All the skepticism in the world about who this team is and what they’re going to be can’t even really dampen the glow of a win like that. I’m happy about it. I’m glad it happened.

But do I believe it? Am I ready to tell you that the Spurs who came out to the west coast and took consecutive wins off the two L.A. juggernauts aren’t imposters? Not on your life. See, I’ve been down this road before and I’m smarter now. LaMarcus Aldridge can’t play out of his mind like that every game. DeMar DeRozan is going to stop making threes any second now. The young guys? They aren’t ready. They can’t keep this up. I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time, here I go again.

I feel like every year I’ve been writing for this site I do at least one post marveling about how this team is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, mostly to prove that my degree in English was worth it, but also because I like to pretend that I’m the first person to notice that sometimes teams have off nights, sometimes they have on nights, and it’s almost like they have different personalities from game to game! I act like this is a revelation when the fact is that it’s just the norm. The Spurs are not unique in their ability to string together a few consecutive nights of competent basketball, nor are they immune from walking out on that court against any team in the league and laying an egg. In my head, I’ve already written off their upcoming game against the clearly tanking Thunder as a loss because that just seems like the obvious pattern the universe is plotting out for us.

I’m trying to look at the big picture right now because I worry that if look too closely at last night’s game, I might just fall back down the rabbit hole of optimism again. If I spend too much time focusing on how good the Spurs look when everything’s clicking then I’m going to look like a fool the next time it’s not. Right? That’s how it works. Because last night I watched a team that was fully in sync beat the brakes off one of the best teams in the league and barely break a sweat doing it. They hounded and frustrated a Lakers team to the point that even the inevitable moment when LeBron started to stress test the gates of his enclosure in the 2nd half was easily dealt with and put away.

The Spurs played the way all of us are clamoring for them to. They played fast and they shot threes and they ran every chance they got. The ball movement isn’t quite hitting 2014 levels of godliness, but it’s still whipping around and finding the right shot and flowing like a well oiled machine. The guys on this team are fun and creative and competitive as hell. They know better than any of us that the Lakers beat them twice in a row last week and they seemed determined from the jump to not let that happen again. This is the Spurs team we’ve been dreaming about and now it’s finally here, in front of our faces, playing pretty basketball and making me think dangerous thoughts.

** deep breath **

So, like I was saying, I’m not going to get sucked in again. Can’t. Won’t. The real Spurs? Well, the real Spurs are out there somewhere between a 21 point loss and a 9 point win and I’ll figure out who they are soon enough. For now, I mean, you all are welcome to waste your time reveling in a big, fun win over an old rival that showcased all the incredible potential bubbling up within the organization at the moment, but me?

I’m too smart for that.

Takeaways:

  • Like most of us, I feel like I’ve completely lost track of time and space over the last year so I think I still forget just how young this season still is. My biological clock is telling me that we’re practically at the All-Star break and that the Rodeo Road Trip is just around the corner, so I think I’m making the mistake of judging a lot of these performances on that scale as opposed to the more accurate scale of “It’s only been 8 games you dummy.” It’s safe to say we’re still firmly ensconced in the Small Sample Size Theater so any observations or hard truths that we glean from these games need to have a big ol’ grain of salt attached.
  • To wit, LaMarcus missed a big chunk of time there during the losing streak, and it turns out that having a healthy LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor really changes the dynamic for this team. I know the LMA situation is complicated on a number of levels, and I’m sure that if you polled every Spurs fan about him you’d probably get a pretty wide range of opinions, but I really want to believe that the style the Spurs seem to be committing to is going to coax performances like this out of him more and more frequently. He seemed comfortable out there last night. He was getting open looks and pulling the trigger without hesitation and just generally looked like the offensive safety blanket he’s always been capable of being. The reality is that we’re not asking him to be a different player all together, we just need him to stretch the floor just a little. Be just enough of a threat from outside to open things up a tiny bit. I think he can do that and, more importantly, it looks like he thinks he can do that. Small sample size, sure, but I like the Spurs with him on the floor.
  • Keldon Johnson had a super weird night, and the fact that we won anyway is really doing wonders for my confidence. Turns out that needing a still relatively unproven 2nd year guy to put the team on his back every night is kind of stressful. Anyway, KJ couldn’t buy a bucket last night and it produced one of the silliest Shot Plots I’ve ever seen. Look at this thing, I mean, it looks like he just fully forgot how to make layups. I’m not even mad, that’s amazing.
Keldon Johnson Shot Plot
  • I don’t know if there is some excuse like, “oh the hallowed Lakers colors could never be changed out” or something like that, but now that the precedent has been set that teams are allowed to switch out the colors on the court to match whatever throwback or alt jersey they’re wearing on any given night, it looks super dumb to have a team in blue playing a team in white and black on a court filled out with yellow and purple. It felt like we were watching a random March Madness regional. I genuinely like the Laker’s blue throwbacks, but if you’re going to do something then do it all the way, right?
  • Jakob Poeltl only made one shot all night but it was freaking cool. “You guys want me to dunk more instead of doing layups? Fine. I will do the most layup looking dunk of all time”

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- It seems like you were about to start singing Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” at one point up there, but then didn’t fully commit to it. We’re you scared?

- Yea look, there was a point where I was thinking about framing the entire post around the idea that I was the protagonist of that song who knew what it meant to walk along the lonely street of dreams and was a drifter who was born to walk alone. Thematically, it really works with what I was trying to get across but, at the end of the day, it turns out that song is mostly just repeating the chorus over and over and over again, so the runway on material for the concept was shorter than I thought.

- You probably have Whitesnake stuck in your head now though, right?

- Oh, definitely, but I have to imagine everyone else does too and that brings me a certain amount of comfort.

- Do you have any plans in the future to compare your outlook on the Spurs to the song of an 80’s hair metal band?

- I think that’s a safe bet.