Don’t look now, but the Spurs haven’t been been full-on embarrassing for a few days now. I know, I know, we don’t want to jinx it or anything like that, it just feels important to acknowledge this brief little stretch in time where the team appears to have at least gotten up off the mat and reengaged with the task at hand. Frankly, after the season we’ve gone through up to this point, it almost feels like we should get to hang a banner. The 2020-21 San Antonio Spurs: They Got Knocked Down, But They Got Up Again.
Here’s where I need to acknowledge that I’m still keeping our old friend Optimism at arm’s length here. We’ve just been on this merry-go-round a little too long to get ramped up about a “five wins in the last six” stretch, right? It’s nice. It feels good to win and it certainly feels good to have a break or two fall our way, but it doesn’t feel like we have a demonstrably different team on our hands today than we did a few weeks ago. The shortcomings are still there, the liabilities are still there, and the gap between where we are and where we want to be is still a bit too wide for everyone’s liking.
That being said...the vibes are good? I’ve crunched the numbers and compiled all the data and by almost every single scientific measure I have at my disposal it appears that the vibes are in fact good right now. What do we do with that? The Spurs are all but guaranteed a Play-In Tournament berth at this point and with 12 games left in the season their only real job is to stay healthy (looking at you Derrick White) and keep vibing. If that means turning off the defensive settings for a night and getting into a shootout with the Wizards so everyone can see a few shots fall then so be it.
This is a deeply flawed basketball team that happens to have a roster populated with guys I’m extremely fond of. I love watching DeMar ruthlessly dropping buckets night after night. Dejounte and Derrick figuring things out is equal parts frustrating and delightful. Keldon Johnson’s inability to find a gear in between “idling” and “going as hard as he possibly can” is definitely still in its charming phase. Rudy and Patty doing old man things equals great. Our pasty twin towers, Poeltl and Eubanks, are a delight. It’s tough! I keep looking over this list of guys and every single one is a keeper. They are all fun and good in their own way but also, crucially, they do not (yet?) fit very well together on a modern NBA team. I ask again, what do we do with that?
I think the obvious answer is to enjoy it while it lasts. The die has been cast for this particular season. Things are in motion that cannot be undone. We’re riding into battle with a team that is doomed to finish the year with a loss and that’s something we know and it’s also probably something that the guys on the team know too. They aren’t dumb. They’re infinitely more plugged in than anyone to what’s going on we have to imagine that they know how the cookie is likely to crumble on this one.
Maybe there’s something freeing in that. No stakes, no pressure, no expectations. You have one month left with these particular dudes to just go out there and hoop and see what happens. I like that for them. I like to imagine what it looks like when they stop caring about the end result and just settle in for the journey. The young guys can just focus on learning and getting better. The old guys can just focus on doing what they do best. Maybe it looks a lot like what we’ve seen the last few games. A team unburdened.
The Spurs will likely look a lot different next year and that’s something we’re all probably looking forward to. I have to admit though, I’m curious to see what they do down the stretch here. This team obviously didn’t hit the marks we were expecting this season, but there’s still a little time left on the clock for them. There are certainly worse ways to spend your time than cheering on a group of loveable underdogs while they valiantly attempt to make a little magic happen. Who knows? Maybe we’ll stumble into a miracle or two in there.
Crazier things have happened.
- It was sort of refreshing to watch both teams just decide to take a pass on the defensive side of the ball for most of the night. It was almost like they had a gentlemen’s agreement that said something like, “hey, we’ve put our fans through a lot this year, what if we just let them hang out with an old-fashioned shootout? Everyone good with that?”
I had a good time. Did I wish the Spurs would snag a few more stops here and there? Always. I always do. But beggars can’t be choosers and the Spurs winning a high-scoring, back and forth overtime game was definitely one of the more enjoyable nights of the season for me.
- I know that I’ve said something to this affect before but, goodness, I could spend the rest of my life just watching DeMar DeRozan go to work like he did last night. It’s not “the beautiful game” or anything, but there’s this raw, overwhelming intensity to him when he’s ON like that and it makes me feel like I’m standing in front of the Grand Canyon or something. The Spurs have never had a pure offensive savant like this before and once he leaves, it will probably be a long time before we see something like it again in Silver & Black. I know all the reasons that DeMar probably can’t be the centerpiece of a modern, successful NBA team anymore. I know that. All the more reason to spend as much time marveling at what he does while we still can.
- Speaking of appreciating things that are sort of antithetical to the modern NBA game, how cool is it that we got to witness an authentic, wildly inefficient Triple-Double from Russell Westbrook? 22 points, 14 assists, and 13 boards?? On 9 of 26 shooting??? You can’t (and probably shouldn’t) teach that! It was like getting in a time machine and was watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel in real time. What a performance.
- There was a sequence in Overtime from Dejounte Murray that, in hindsight, I really enjoyed. I say “in hindsight” because in the moment I wanted Pop to pull him from the game and make him go sit in a chair facing the wall. With about a minute left in OT, Westbrook and Beal attempted to do a simple little screen/handoff play to get the Ball into Beal’s hands. Dejounte expertly got his arm in there, didn’t foul, and slapped the ball away from Washington’s two best players and got the ball back in the Spurs’ hands, up 1, with the potential to ice the game. This was great. It was everything I love about Dejounte as an instinctual, athletic NBA player. He then pulled back, let everyone get settled, dribbled into the lane and air balled a floater with 23 seconds left on the shot clock. It was everything I hate about Dejounte as an instinctual, athletic NBA player. The duality of man is a complicated thing.
- The Committee to get Jakob Poeltl on 1st Team All-NBA Defense and Also Possibly Elected President will not be sending any of the footage of this game to the League office. In fact we’re probably going to go ahead and burn the tape and just not speak of it again. We appreciate your privacy during this time.
WWL Post Game Press Conference
- So there’s 12 games left in the season, how do think the Spurs will fare over that stretch?
- Yes, honestly, why would I want you to be dishonest with me?
- Look I don’t know your life, maybe you were in the market for a hot take or something.
- No, let’s leave the takes aside for one second. I want you to give me and your readers a calm, rational, and clear-eyed prediction for what is going to happen in these last few games of the 2020-21 season in your opinion as a #BasketballExpert.
- Fine...THE SPURS ARE GOING UNDEFEATED AND LANDING THE 6 SEED LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOO!