One of the things I’ve been doing this season, since cutting the cord and moving to NBA League Pass accessed via the Internet, is taking the advantage of the option to watch the game while listening to the opponent’s announcing team — for variety’s sake, as well as a number of other reasons that I may or may not get into in the future.
But the search for variety can lead to any number of issues, including the fact that in my effort to not listen to Sean Elliott repeat himself, I end up hearing any number of announcers for different teams spread out across the country say similar things at similar times of the game.
Witness exhibit A (which is at least interesting — and certainly why it kept being mentioned over and over): entering Wednesday’s game against the Timberwolves, the Spurs were 1-9 when they hadn’t led at the end of the first half. And the one they won was against the Rockets which was tied at the half.
So this year’s Spurs don’t win when they trail going into intermission, the T-wolves carried an 11 point lead into the third, and San Antonio still pulled out the win.
That makes me feel downright Count Rugen-esque: I think that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard...
Which brings me to the comeback, which occurred over five and a half minutes in the fourth quarter. From 10:21 left in the game when Minny lead by 16, 97-81, to 4:50 when Patty Mills flipped in a beauty of a layup that tied the game at 99. The details of those 351 seconds are a joy to behold. During the time the Spurs made 6 baskets and five freebies, the Wolves missed eight shots, turned the ball over three times, and committed 6 fouls. That’s good for almost 30% of their fouls, and a full third of their turnovers happening in less time than it takes me to boil the spaghetti for my dinner.
A run like this is a wonder to watch and a blast to review, but there was zero warning that anything good was on the way, much less a game-defining spurt. San Antonio had played 11 straight sub-par quarters (two full games worth of being spanked by the inexplicably stout Grizzlies plus the first three quarters of profitless play against Minny) and I’d even turned down the volume to make a call to customer service about my wireless bill when suddenly the Spurs’ defense grew fangs and the offense combobulated itself into a functioning unit of near-perfect point production.
DeMar DeRozan scored or assisted on every bucket of the 18-2 run besides a floater by Derrick White and Mills’ circus shot that knotted it up, and I’m wondering what more the guy can do on offense to quiet his naysayers. And this is coming from the guy who last season said that he should be traded if he wasn’t going to give effort on defense.
I know that DmDr’s defensive numbers aren’t anything to crow about, but ever since the bubble last year, I’ve seen improved effort from him, and that combined with his efficient play plus his willingness to allow the younger guys their shots as well as an opportunity to share the ball and test their legs, I’m satisfied. As far as this season is concerned, I’d say I’m pleased. In the context of the last three seasons, I’m nearly overjoyed.
Getting back to that run, defense was a huge part of it, and watching White and Dejounte Murray work together was one of my favorite things about the victory. I don’t want to revisit all of the angst that last season dialed up as we watched the team struggle for months wondering how long we’d have to wait before Derrick and DJ would get to terrorize the league’s offenses together — but it’s helpful to cast a quick backward glance if only to better appreciate the moment now that they’re sharing the court and making life difficult for their opponents. I mean, how much fun was it to watch the D’Angelo Russell navigating multiple screens without gaining any advantage as White and Murray wordlessly switched and stayed in front of him. I’m just so excited for them, and can’t wait to see more.
A hallmark of these Spurs is that they win when they hit their threes. They’re not necessarily alone in this. As Pop has regularly complained about, just about all you have to do to see which team won a game is check the box score to see who made more threes. But Wednesday the good guys lost the battle of the threes (in number taken, made and percentage) and still came out on top. You don’t do that without doing a lot of things right, and one of those is taking care of the ball.
It's so easy to take excellence for granted when you see it all the time, but do we even realize how totally ridiculous it is to finish a game with just seven total turnovers? San Antonio isn’t merely tossing regular shutouts as far as turning the ball goes (anything in the single digits is exceptional) but they’re averaging under 11 giveaways per game. For a team with so many youngsters logging high minutes, it’s even more impressive, and it bodes extremely well for the future of the team.
Finally, I must share something with you that made my basketball-shaped heart glad: an actual blockout:
Watch Trey Lyles. He doesn’t just stand there. He doesn’t try to get the rebound himself. He just just blocks out. He puts his backside on the only threat to steal the board and eliminates the possibility that anyone but a Spur would end up with the ball. pic.twitter.com/RuOcN7HONj— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) February 4, 2021
Thank you, Trey Lyles. You are appreciated and I hope we see more of you soon.