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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Bucks

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The Spurs fall short on the final game of their road trip.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As watched our clearly exhausted heroes just chucking up threes and hoping for the best in a 4th quarter at the end of a week in which they played five games in seven nights, I was just like, “yea man, I’ve been there before.” I feel nothing about this loss. I’m taking a hard look at the “moral victory” option and deciding I’m all set. The Bucks were favored by and 9 in this one and they only won by 7. The Spurs gave two of their most important players the night off. The world went on turning.

It’s kind of wild to spend roughly two days locked into the excitement of March Madness and then capping it off with a regular season NBA game being played in a mostly empty arena. The stakes could not have felt lower. It was like leaving a party and checking into a business conference for medical supplies. I don’t even really like college basketball (I’m one of those weirdos) but how can you not get caught up in the pageantry of it all this time of year? Obviously I care about the Spurs, but what I really care about is my new favorite team in the world (as of yesterday) THE FIGHTIN’ EAGLES OF EASTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY!

The NCAA is a business masquerading as a celebration of the “purity of sport” or whatever. 9 times out of 10 I find it pretty easy to not get sucked into the ruse, but even the most cynical bones in my body have a hard time resisting the pull of the tournament. The NBA is a business masquerading as a slightly less evil business than it actually is amd, most of the time, I find that pretty compelling in spite of itself. I love watching basketball and every year the NBA comes to me and says, “here are the best basketball players in the world, would you like to watch them? We even have a team based in the city you’re from, is that something you might be interested in?” and every year I slowly take a sip of my drink, stare out the window while contemplating the mistakes of my past, and then turn to the NBA and say, “I’m in.”

I like that I know where the NBA stands. It’s neither “good” nor “bad.” It is an organization putting on basketball games to make money. It’s capitalism run amok, but what isn’t these days, amiright?! Again, usually this doesn’t bother me too much, but last night’s game felt a little bit like an empty gesture. Even watching Lonnie Walker become engulfed in flames while battling valiantly against the tide wasn’t enough to overcome the overwhelming sense that no one really wanted to be there.

The vets played hard. The kids played hard. They built out a big lead in the first half, but it never felt like more than a Paper Tiger. The FIGASENI legs were always lurking. The “not having either of our Point Guards” was always going to rear its head. Giannis was always going to remember he was the best player on the court. At the end of the day, this was definitely an NBA game that happened and no one will ever be able to take that away.

On to the next.

Takeaways:

  • Alright, now that I’ve got my misanthropic take out of the way, let’s switch gears and gush about Lonnie Walker’s 31 point masterpiece for a bit! When he doesn’t quite have his confidence, you can see it written all over him. His body language is different, his athleticism doesn’t quite pop, and the basic plays you know he’s capable of making seem to fall apart before they even properly get going. However, when he’s feeling himself? It’s like a different guy out there. He will take on any defender, shoot any shot, and try any move he can think of. It’s reminiscent of when guys like Steph and Klay go on those absurd hot streaks where it seems like everything is falling their way and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I’m not saying Lonnie’s on the same level as those guys, but I am saying that it’s sort of remarkable to watch him play with the same kind of confidence those guys have. Is there a way to get him to play like that all the time? Do we want him to play like that all the time? I don’t know. The team needed a spark last night and rode Lonnie for as long as they could go, but it’s hard to tell if that’s a sustainable solution for anything. Pretty compelling to watch though.
  • It was genuinely pretty surprising that Keldon Johnson had the energy to do anything out there after his performance in Cleveland on Friday. I’ve seen people throwing around Charles Barkley comparisons out there and, you know, that’s probably getting a little carried away. But like...what if it isn’t? What if the Spurs accidentally drafted the heir to the Round Mound’s throne with the 29th pick? I’ve decided to stop trying to figure out what his ceiling is because watching him discover new and interesting powers every couple weeks is my favorite running subplot of the season.
  • My second favorite running subplot is Jakob Poeltl turning into a legit offensive threat to go alongside his budding Defensive Player of the year campaign. In the 2nd quarter of last night’s game, DeMar tossed the ball over to Jakob well outside the top of the three point line, ostensibly to set the offense in motion. The rest of the guys on the team dutifully hopped into their movements and started to get in position. Meanwhile, Jakob got busy...attacking the rim? Are you serious right now Jakob? You’re just going to put your head down, drive past like three defenders and delicately lay it in past the outstretched hand of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo? Who are you? What is this? Where are we?
  • This should give you a clue of where my head was at last night, I spent a majority of the game getting irrationally mad that the Bucks coaching staff were wearing blue pullovers. Blue? I know that “technically” blue is a part of their color scheme, but to call it “minor” would be an overstatement. It’s an accent color. It’s an afterthought. I know that they have a City jersey this year that’s blue, but I also know they weren’t wearing it last night which meant I had to sit there and watch a team in White & Black play a team in Green on a Green court while being distracted by a pack of blueberries over on the home bench. It was ridiculous. The Bucks trying to incorporate Blue stuff into their whole situation would be like the Spurs trying put out a bunch of Teal, Pink and Orange....oh.
  • It’s pretty cool that every once in a while DeMar does something out there on the basketball court that is such an ineffable act of beauty and grace that you have to just sit back and watch it 1000 times.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- The last time we did one of these it got a little testy and, frankly, you seem like you’re in kind of a mood today so maybe let’s all just keep our heads this time, ok?

- I just answer the questions put in front of me.

- It seemed like there was actually quite a bit to like about this game. Even though they were shorthanded, the Spurs managed to take a really good team to the brink. A young guy had a potential breakout performance. A couple of cool highlights here and there. What made you decide to ignore all that and focus on, as you put it, “capitalism run amok”?

- Listen pal, if guys like me don’t have the courage to call out the fat cats running our society, then the whole operation is going to fall a part.

- Sure, but is this column really the time and place to do that?

- It’s the BEST time and place. The ruling class wants to subdue the masses with it’s little treats and distractions. The proletariat is muzzled and subdued by the twinkling lights of “sports” and “competition” while the bourgeoisie dance around, pull our strings, and think we don’t notice. What we need, now more than ever, is to...

- Ok, I think that’s enough.