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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Clippers

Another tough loss in LA continues a frustrating trend for the Spurs

San Antonio Spurs v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

They’re going to try your patience, these young Spurs. They may not mean to, but they will.

I’m trying to figure out how to relax during these games. It’s something I’ve wanted to get better at over the years and have never quite gotten a handle on. How do you watch something like a sporting event and not care about the binary outcome? For a long time, my answer has been to focus on the people. Find out more about the guys on the team and care about who they are. That way you can celebrate their personal victories, growth and development along a parallel track to whatever the team is getting up to. A perfect plan.

The thing is, there’s a fatal flaw in it because you can definitely lose on that level too. Your guys are going to mess up a lot. They’re going to take bad shots and make dumb turnovers and mess up defensive rotations. They’ll forget to box out or they’ll miss the open man. They’ll do this over and over and you try to tell yourself, “be patient, this is how they learn” but it just...wears on you. It’s one thing to commit to the “moral victory” lifestyle, but it’s another thing to try and subsist on a diet made up of them entirely.

There’s also the unfortunate side effect where you might accidentally find yourself emotionally invested in a group of guys who keep getting punched in the mouth night after night. That’s its own kind of pain. Dejounte Murray is having a real breakout type of season. His name should be on the lips of every single person who cares about the game of basketball right now. I’m so proud of his development and so excited about the player he’s turning out to be, which makes it even harder to watch him when the whistle blows on a night like this. He’s almost put together another triple double, he’s completely spent, and now, in spite of all that, another notch is going up in the loss column. Devastating.

Dejounte is a competitor. All of these guys are. They didn’t sign up for this moral victory campaign. They want to win out there and every single time they don’t you can see the frustration written on their faces. I obviously want to practice patience, but you start to worry about them, you know? We all get to keep watching the Spurs until we’re old and grey, but this is their career. This is their life. They don’t get a second shot at being in their athletic prime. They don’t get a guaranteed spot on the squad that eventually makes it back to the promised land.

I don’t know. I feel like a mother hen. I want what’s best for my boys. I like to think that we’re on the right path and that everything is happening for a reason, but some nights it’s easier to have that kind of faith than others. It’s not like there’s really anything else to be done. Pop, legend that he is, can’t snap his fingers and magically put Jakob Poeltl back in the lineup. Chip Engelland, miracle worker that he is, can’t turn Keldon Johnson into Kawhi Leonard overnight. The front office, talented as they are, can’t turn back the clock and sign different dudes up in the off season. The team is the team and the plan is the plan. We’re in the great game now, and the great game is terrifying.

All in all, you can’t ask for much more than what the Spurs gave us on Tuesday night out in Los Angeles. They traded punches with a really good team and came up short. The effort, like always, was admirable and the shortcomings, like always, we’re apparent. It doesn’t take a genius to see why this team can’t quite get the ball across the goal line. They simply need to be perfect and make no mistakes for 48 minutes. Figure it out fellas!

We’re going to have a lot of nights like this as the season winds its way down the path. Our job is to reckon with that reality as best we can. It’s going to try our patience, sure, but patience has a habit of paying off in the end.

Takeaways:

  • I know that there’s a lot of extenuating circumstances and also positions are meaningless in the 2021 version of the NBA...BUT...it’s still pretty startling to look up in the middle of the 2nd quarter and realize that the 6’8” Thaddeus Young is our tallest guy on the court. I’m sitting on my couch yelling at the TV, “man, we can’t buy a board” and my TV is yelling back at me, “well, you don’t have any money!” Imaginary arguments with an anthropomorphic version of my television are the type of thing that happens when the game tips off at 9:30.
  • I don’t really have words for Lonnie Walker IV’s little flourish at the end of the 1st quarter last night. I’ve watched it on a loop maybe fifty times since it’s happened and every time I really try to break it down I get lost in the sauce of it. Just...I mean, just watch it. Then watch it again. Then take a break. Go get some water. Then watch it again.
  • There are some real reasons to like what’s happening defensively for this team. They don’t exactly do any one thing great, but they do a lot of things good. Regardless of who is on the court, they seem to play really well as a unit on that end of the floor. They work together and swarm and stay extremely active at all times. Even Paul George, who eventually got his 34 points, really had to work for it. You can feel the other team getting uncomfortable all game and that, more than anything, is what keeps the Spurs in most of these contests. If they ever figure out how to constantly put the ball in the hole then, baby, we might have a stew going.
  • The Spurs playing in Los Angeles on a Black court while wearing their White jerseys against a team wearing Blue jerseys just made the entire night feel dumber than it needed to. It was like my brain kept rejecting what it was looking at the whole time. I honestly believe that we might need to just permanently shut the Clippers down and start over from scratch.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- This is your first year watching the Spurs from the Central Time Zone in a long time. What’s your first impression of the week night West Coast game?

- It stinks! How do people live like this? Why hasn’t there been an investigation? It is too late for a basketball game to begin! We can’t allow it to continue!

- Wouldn’t that be unfair to fans of other teams who live on the West Coast?

- Well, sure, but since when is the world a fair place? Why can’t it be unfair in my direction, FOR ONCE!

- This all seems a little histrionic.

- Yea. Well. I stayed up too late last night. This is what happens.