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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Hornets

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San Antonio falls short in one they would like to have back.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

I want to yell at the Spurs this morning, but I think they get it. I want to tell them that their performance wasn’t up to par. I want them to feel bad for losing a winnable game when we all know that those will be few and far between as the season comes to a close. I want them to hit more shots. I want them to have more energy. I want them to be better. I could spend the rest of my day airing the litany of grievances the bubbled up over the course of this loss but, like I said, I don’t think I need to. We’re not mad, we’re just disappointed.

This was another one of those growing pains losses. A year from now, we’re all going to forget about that one time the Spurs came home from a road trip and were rusty against a mediocre team. It’ll be one blip among many in their slightly above .500 record and it won’t really have any bearing on how well or how poorly they do in the playoffs. The memory of this game is already dissolving into the wind and becoming a small part of the grand mosaic that is “The Spurs Rebuild™”.

At this point, it feels like a pretty simple diagnosis every time the Spurs lose a game. They cannot afford the luxury of their important players having off nights. Maybe Patty can go cold or Dejounte can be out of sorts. Keldon can have a hard time getting in the game and Lonnie can seem a little lost out there. All of these things can and will happen again, it’s just that when they all seem to be happening simultaneously then the Spurs are effectively stuck in neutral, hoping DeMar can generate enough offense to keep things afloat until everyone comes back online. They’ve proven time and again that they can weather storms during games, but if the storm never passes then we’re out of luck.

All of this is obvious. “If our players play bad we lose” is not going to get me invited to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The thing is, I just don’t think it’s more complicated than that. I’m sure there are underlying stats that will reinforce something like “when the Spurs only get X points off the bench, their record is 4-28” or something and that’s great — it just makes me tired.

This team can afford a few of these off nights, but they can’t afford too many more. Things are starting to get serious and the schedule isn’t getting any easier moving forward. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe they need to feel the fire in order to regain some sense of urgency. I’ve certainly been sensing a profound air of “what’re we even doing out here” wafting off of the last few games. If I can feel it, then I’m sure the guys on the team are practically stewing in it. I just hope they pull out of it before it’s too late.

I called this a growing pains loss earlier and I guess that’s what this was. I’m willing to forgive a lot of things in the name of a young team learning how to consistently win in this league. The thing is, the clock is ticking on this team being “young.” Most of these guys have actually been around the block a few more times than we would prefer to remember. They’ve seen things. They’ve had their fair share of growing pains. Everyone is welcome to hide behind the shield of youth for a little bit longer if it makes them feel better, but sooner or later that’s not going to fly.

Sooner or later, they’re going to have to grow up.

Takeaways:

  • Hey, if you’re someone who decided to wake up the other day and be mean to Derrick White on social media then you are fully the worst. He doesn’t need me to to protect him or anything because he’s awesome and I write silly things on the Internet, but I’d still like to firmly plant my flag in the camp of “harassing people on twitter is stupid.” There’s zero excuse for it. You can be disappointed when guys have off nights or whatever. You can be bummed out when the team loses. You are obviously free to do anything. Harassing people online because they didn’t put a ball in a hoop the way you liked is dumb and sad.
  • Speaking of Derrick White, he was one of the few Spurs who looked great against Charlotte. He still doesn’t look like he’s all the way back to his pre-injury self, which makes a performance like this all the more incredible. He’s going to be a force for this team down the stretch and I fully expect him to ruin some unsuspecting guy’s week during the playoffs this year.
  • I’m glad DeMar took all the time he needed to be with his family, but I’m also extremely glad that we are back to being treated to casual offensive explosions like this from him. Actually, calling it an explosion is probably not fair to explosions. He’s more like a pot of water that slowly comes to boil. He’ll be drifting in and out of the game, making a play here and there, and then all of a sudden you’ll look up and realize he’s almost got 30. It’s fascinating how he sort of gets in to the game and carves out points like that.
  • I can’t find the video of the first part of this play, so you’re just going to have to trust me. Around the 7 minute mark of the first quarter, the hero Jakob Poeltl was doing his job and boxing out while a shot went up on the offensive end. He put himself in the correct position and readied to snag his well-deserved board. All of a sudden, the villain Gordon Hayward ran up from behind and threw a sharp, poisonous elbow into our hero’s back and sending him to the floor. Hayward snagged the ball and made his way back up court. This all happened so fast that referees didn’t even witness the treachery. Jakob didn’t whine. He didn’t cry. He simply got up diligently and made his way back up the court. Hayward got out in transition and, assuming he was in the clear, attempted to weave into the lane and bully his way to and And-1 situation. Needless to say, our hero was right where he was supposed to be. Jakob reached up with his mighty paw and resoundingly swatted away the villain’s feeble offering. The Spurs may have lost this game but, if this play is any indication, they’re going to win the war.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- So we’re just supposed to take your word for it that Gordon Hayward threw an elbow into Jakob’s back on that play?

- Gordon was right there, his elbow was out, and Jakob went to the floor. I don’t know what else you need to know.

- Some video evidence would be helpful if you’re just going to come out and slander someone’s character like this on a widely read and world renowned sports blog.

- Slander? Why, I did nothing of the sort. I referred to Gordon Hayward as the villain of the story and by almost every measure, unless you belong to his immediate family or something, Gordon Hayward’s villainy is an objective fact.

- The term Objective means you can prove that it is true or false. Without video evidence this cannot be.

- It’s so weird that like, up until now, I had no idea it was Gordon Hayward himself who was conducting these interviews. Wow, Gordon, thanks for reading!