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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Nets

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San Antonio smartly avoids showing any cards to (ahem) a potential Finals opponent.

San Antonio Spurs v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I hope everyone took a lot of deep, patient breaths over the course of Wednesday night’s tussle in Brooklyn. It has been well established at this point that the Spurs are all but locked into their destiny as the 10th seed and the intensity of this game seemed to reflect that sense of urgency. It felt like a scrimmage out there with the two teams running through various system checks while gearing up for a long journey that’s just around the corner. Winning or losing was beside the point.

I’m fascinated to see what happens with the Spurs in the Play-In tournament. I guess we sort of have no choice to be but, still, I can’t shake the feeling that this team has been in survival mode for the better part of a month now. Almost as if they powered everything all the way down so they could just drift along to the finish line. It hasn’t been the most pleasant viewing experience of my life and I certainly won’t be regaling my grandkids with stories about the 2021 stretch run, but I can’t really argue the strategy.

The Spurs have been served up a series of reminders over the back half of the season that they don’t have the firepower to compete on the highest level. I mean really compete. Like, challenge for a title compete. So what do you do in the face of that knowledge? You get on with the business of living. You develop your players, your tinker with things, and you lurk in the shadows. You wait until the time is right, until the stakes are right, and then you try to land a perfect blow. Are the Spurs capable of getting themselves together for a shockingly competent performance, seemingly out of nowhere? I don’t know, why don’t you ask Milwaukee about it.

Look, this is probably wishful thinking, but it’s fun wishful thinking and I’d like to indulge it for a moment. I said earlier that I’m fascinated to see what happens with the Spurs in the Play-In tournament because I think these guys have a little something left in the tank and I think Pop might be just crafty enough to know how to deploy it. I think they know that their best and only chance to make a little noise in the playoffs is to catch someone underestimating them. It happens all the time in the playoffs, right? Remember in the 2014 title run when our guys were so laser focused on the Heat rematch that the Mavs accidentally landed a few punches on the boys? Tell me, honestly, why couldn’t these Spurs get hot, mess around, and take someone to seven games in the first round? You think the never-been-there-before Utah Jazz, who just recently blew the Spurs out in consecutive games, aren’t going to be looking ahead to other things?

I digress. It’s just that I watch the Spurs in that game last night and I refuse to believe that what I saw was their best version. I mean, clearly that was the case, but I mean it more in the sense that I refuse to believe they were efforting the best version of themselves in that game. It didn’t make sense for them to go flying around out there at mach two with their hair on fire, so they didn’t. We could spend a thousand hours analyzing what happened on the court, or we could just accept the more simple and obvious explanation.

This Spurs team isn’t special. They aren’t going to reach the highest of highs this sport has to offer and I hope we’ve all made our peace with that by now, but I think this type of knowledge just might make them dangerous in the right situation. Last night? Well, last night was decidedly not the right situation. That Play-In tournament can’t get here soon enough and, hopefully, we’ll finally get a chance to see what this team is made of.

I’m excited. It’s finally time for it.

Takeaways:

  • If you somehow haven’t read Michael Pina’s incredible profile of Dejounte Murray over at Sports Illustrated, please stop what you’re doing and go there now. It’s one of those pieces where you go in really liking a player and leave it willing to run through a brick wall for him. It’s fascinating to read about how singularly focused Murray is on getting better each and every day and it shines a light on how the drastic improvement in this game was only a surprise if you weren’t really paying attention. He takes the responsibility of being the leader of this franchise extremely seriously and he seems more than up to the job of carrying on the legacy of those who came before him. I was already excited about his future with the team, but reading this somehow bumped my expectations up even higher.
  • There’s a scene late in the run of Breaking Bad (uh, spoiler alert for Breaking Bad, I guess?) where Jesse Pinkman is just fully at the end of his rope with Walter White. He’s been pushed past his breaking point and he finally snaps and goes to the White’s with the intention of burning the house to the ground. He gets interrupted just before he does and exhaustedly screams to the heavens, “HE CAN’T KEEP GETTING AWAY WITH IT!” Anyway, that’s a long winded way of saying that I sort of feel that way watching James Harden dance around after converting a tissue-soft four point play like he’s some sort of basketball deity gracing us mere mortals with a glimpse of his genius. It’s fine. You know how to pump fake and absorb the contact of someone whispering on you. Congrats on the enormity of your success...
  • I’m hesitant to even bring this up because I don’t want to scare it away or anything...but...Patty Mills might be secretly heating up again. Shhhh, shh, shhh, don’t look at it. Don’t even think about it. I just want you to know that I know that we know he knows.
  • These Nets uniforms are the exact right amount of silly for my taste. On the surface, an acid-wash baby blue tie-dye jersey has no business anywhere near a basketball court and, by all accounts, when the Nets debuted it in this 90’s, people weren’t ready to embrace it and the team couldn’t figure out how to replicate the pattern for retail so it got shelved. Now though? Now it feels like the perfect type of curiosity that I want to see every once in a while. The colors pop and the look sort of keeps you guessing throughout the entire game. I don’t know! If it were my team and I had to watch it all the time, maybe I’d feel differently, but I had a good time hanging out with it last night. At the very least, I was grateful that it spared us from watching the Black & White on White & Black chaos we usually get in a Spurs Vs. Nets matchup.
  • One more time...just for good measure......

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- Now that the Spurs have finally taken the plunge into Fiesta Jerseys, what do you think is the next cool thing that the franchise can do with their various City/Classic/Retro uniform lineup in the future?

- I’m glad you asked. As has been established, the first obvious thing we need to do is get rid of the greys. Nobody asked for a grey jersey. Nobody likes the grey jersey. Everyone gets sad when the team comes out in greys. Once you could’ve made the case that they were an important weapon in our arsenal when it came to boring the other team to death, but I think the effect has started to wear off now that the team no longer contends every year.

- Alright, so get rid of the greys. What else?

- A thing I can’t believe we’ve never done is put out a jersey with the Gervin era SAN ANTONIO wordmark across the front. That almost seems like a no brainer, right? I’d almost go so far to say that if we replaced the regular black jerseys with a Gervin retro that nobody would bat an eye.

- What about bringing back the Chaps throwbacks the team briefly trotted out a few years ago?

- They were ahead of their time with those beauties but, no, I don’t think we go the Chaps route again. First of all, they were the Dallas Chapparells and I know that they eventually became the Spurs but I can’t shake the Dallas stink off that one. I do think that the most interesting route to go with our fourth jersey is bring a different base color into the mix. Right now we have a base of White, Black, Grey, and another Black so , like, maybe we extend the Fiesta theme and bust out a Teal jersey or a Pink jersey? Maybe we do something that’s, like, I don’t know, a Riverwalk themed one that has Blues and Greens in it. The world is our oyster. The Spurs already put this sleeved camo shirt out into the world so, like, we almost literally can’t do any worse.