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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Heat

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San Antonio can’t keep the good times rolling in Miami.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

This loss made a lot of sense to me. I don’t know exactly why, but I felt like I had this one penciled in for a defeat basically from the moment the clock struck zero in Washington on Monday. Maybe it’s just been so long since the Spurs won more than three games in a row that I’ve come to expect the letdown. Maybe it just comes with the territory of pulling out two consecutive close wins. Maybe I’m just bummed about Derrick White. Whatever the case may be, this loss was certainly a disappointment but at least it wasn’t a surprise.

Derrick’s absence loomed large over this game. It’s really a shame that the Spurs never got a chance to work a fully operational Derrick White into what they were trying to do this season with any consistency. Everything seemed to be trending towards it being a “leap” year for him and instead we were treated to a series of false starts. He was injured. He was injured again. He got Covid. He was injured again. It’s a real drag! White never had a chance to go to the next level in a way we thought he would, but every once in a while we got a tantalizing peak into the dormant reserves of talent hiding in there. Even when he wasn’t at his best, he brought an intangible stability to the starting lineup that we needed and recently it even seemed like he was finding ways to tap into that next gear we’ve been waiting on. The outside chance that Bubble Derrick White would rear his head down the stretch felt like a hidden Ace up our collective sleeves that just might give the Spurs a puncher’s chance at doing something special in May. Alas...

You could feel the Spurs sort of exploring the space in this one, almost as if they were turning the key, gunning the engine, and praying that that the car still had some life in it after a crash. Does this whole thing still work without him? Could they cobble together a decent facsimile of his production? Is there any version of the “good” Spurs possible when they’re missing such a significant piece? I think after last night’s performance, the answer is a resounding, “maybe.”

Learning that Derrick would miss the rest of the season is obviously not the news that anyone wanted to hear, but I do think the certainty of the diagnosis will benefit the team down the stretch. He’s out. He’s not coming back. There is no cavalry coming to save you. Maybe, after a campaign filled with uncertainty, this unfortunate break might actually allow for a little clarity. You can only win the games in front of you and you can only use the tools you have. The only thing left to do is get up off the mat and keep swinging.

The Heat were a tough team to draw in this situation, but I’m relatively proud of the way the Spurs fought to stay in it. There were ample opportunities to give up and feel sorry for themselves and they never took the bait. It never looked like our guys disengaged or lost sight of what they were doing. The Heat would go on a run and the Spurs would weather it and climb back into position and give themselves a chance. A break goes a different way here and there, and maybe we’re sitting here talking about another gutsy, close win instead of a semi-frustrating loss. The nature of this Spurs team right now is to live on the edge, and if you live on the edge long enough, you’re bound to fall off every once in a while.

So I don’t know what happens next. As has been pointed out by anyone and everyone, the schedule doesn’t get any easier between now and the finish line. It’s basically a murderer’s row of teams jockeying for playoff position’s or playoff spots. The Spurs don’t need to do anything except pick up a few wins every now and then to maintain their position in the Play-In tournament, but winning a “few” games is definitely easier said than done. So we’ll see. If it’s anything like the last couple games then we’re probably in for a wild ride.

This team has proven it still has some fight left in them. That’s great. They’re going to need every bit of it.

Takeaways:

  • I like starting Devin Vessell. I don’t think he’s ready, but sometimes getting thrown in the mix is the only way to get ready and, frankly, opportunities to go the “trial by fire” route come around very rarely on Gregg Popovich coached teams, so it’s going to be interesting to see what he does with it. He looked a little anxious last night, but he didn’t look scared. He settled in after a bit, played hard on D, and eventually found a little rhythm. Fortunately for everyone, Dejounte Murray is playing with an overload of confidence at the moment so it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Devin can just pop into the slipstream behind him and draft his way to some success.
  • Murray becoming a triple-double factory is a very exciting development. I know there’s probably room to debate the significance of triple-doubles, and I’m sure there are a few empty calories padding the stats in there, but I also just couldn’t be less concerned about any of that. My very scientific Eye Test says Murray has been lighting it up recently and trying to argue that he hasn’t is counter productive. He can do so much so well out there and, even though that sometimes dips into him doing a little too much, I still love the way his game is continuing to evolve and I especially love the attitude he brings each and every night.
  • I have a well documented fascination and love for Jakob Poeltl. I think he’s so important to what the Spurs do and I miss him every time he’s not on the court. Which brings me to this thing that’s happening way too much where my sweet boy Jakob keeps finding himself in foul trouble early in games, and it drives me up a freaking wall. Obviously there’s some soft calls here and there, but Jakob also puts himself in tough spots a lot. When you draw as much contact as he does then there are just going to be a lot of whistles. I don’t know what to do or how to fix it, but someone needs to because the Spurs are a better team when he’s on the floor and it feels like the universe keeps conspiring to keep him off it.
  • Those two toned Miami Vice uniforms are such a big swing in the aesthetics department and I simply can’t decide if I like it or not. Whenever I watch a game with them I spend the entire time going back and forth. My inner six year old is doing backflips at the concept of a pro basketball team wearing a fluorescent Pink & Blue jersey that’s literally split down the middle. It’s the coolest thing he’s ever seen and he wants to buy a bunch of them and wear them every day. My inner sixty year old wants these jerseys to get off his lawn and come back when they’ve decided to pick a color like an adult. I don’t know. I just don’t know. Maybe the Spurs can toss out a two toned Fiesta jersey next year and we’ll see if that can be the final domino that tips me over into full blown madness.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- Bold choice to spend like 85% of your write up talking about a guy who didn’t play in the game you were supposed to be covering.

- I’ve always been told that people really respond to bold flavors.

- Right, but in this case don’t you think that it might be a dereliction of duty to not talk more about that actual game that happened.

- More like a Derrickliction of duty, am I right?

- ....

- Am I right?