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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Sixers

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The best moral victories always sting a little.

Philadelphia 76ers v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

You know that thing where you’re too lazy to go get groceries but you’re too hungry to wait for take out, so you just sort of make do with what’s in the pantry already? It’s pretty barren, but you manage to find some cream of mushroom soup, an old package of Top Ramen, and maybe a can of diced tomatoes in there. Time is short and blood sugar is low so you just sort of don’t think about it too hard and and start heating things up. We’ve all been here before, right? Anyway, the Spurs played a pantry meal game tonight against the Sixers and it certainly won’t win us any James Beard awards, but it also didn’t kill anyone. So that’s good.

I don’t know how to gauge incremental player development very well. Does the fact that Luka and Lonnie both had sick posters tonight mean anything for the future? I do not know! Was it fun to watch? Yea, sure! I mean, this was basically a scrimmage, right? The Sixers were clearly in a weird headspace and the Spurs we’re throwing things against the wall and all the action on the court had this strange air about it, almost as if it was taking place in some alternate timeline where the world had been knocked a few inches of it’s axis.

I really wanted to win this game. I really want to win every game I guess, but I accidently got invested in this one like a dummy. I saw the starting lineups and I knew what the Spurs were doing and I told myself to just like, have a beer and enjoy getting to watch the young dudes get some real NBA minutes against a real NBA team. We’ve been asking for Pop to do this all year. Just let the youths run loose out there and let’s see what we got! This should’ve been a dream night for all of us. No stakes, no pressure...only hardcore player development. Let’s GOoOOoOooOO!

For about three quarters it all went according to plan. The Sixers basically sleepwalked through the 1st half while keeping us at a respectable arms length. Then the Spurs came out after the half, landed a punch or two, and then Sixers flexed their muscles to push the lead out to a comfy enough spot to where they could coast on into the finish line. At this point I must reiterate how fine I was with all of this. Our guys looked a little jumbled out there and they definitely looked like they were getting Big Boy minutes with Big Boy responsibilities and were still a little unsure how to tackle every new problem, but they also kept running and kept pushing and kept trying things. They never looked scared or intimidated, just a little bit out classed from a talent perspective. This was all fun and pleasant and I was more than happy to write it off as a good experience and get to bed early.

Next thing I know things are getting a little tight. Some of our shots are starting to fall and some of their shots are starting to bounce weird and, oh no, Keldon’s dunking and flexing and Lonnie’s hitting threes and Rudy’s hitting threes and...wouldn’t you know it, the dang thing is all tied up. Again, I didn’t want to care about this game. I didn’t want to scare my dogs when Embiid’s shot clanked off the side of the rim to send it to OT. This was supposed to be a stress free evening and now these incorrigible youngsters had tricked me into thinking we had a shot to steal this one.

It’s a shame that it had to end the way it did. A real gut punch. Our guys worked so hard to conjure up a miracle here for us and you could sort of see the life drain out of them when when Simmons’s tip went in and they realized there were no more rabbits to pull out of their hats. I hate that for them. These past two seasons have been so hard for so many reasons and it feels like every time this team seems like it’s maybe figured out the secret, life has been right there to teach them another lesson.

I know this pain is temporary and I know that a game like this will prove invaluable to the guys we’re counting on to carry this franchise into a new era of success, but I also know that knowledge doesn’t make anyone on the plane to Salt Lake City last night feel any better. I hope they know we had fun watching them. I hope they know we still have their back. Games like this are the reason we keep coming back and they’re the reason we stay invested.

I was really upset when the buzzer sounded and the Spurs hadn’t won. Nothing much about this game made sense, but that sure did.

Takeaways:

  • Keldon Johnson did a lot of incredible things this game, but my favorite thing he did was probably on the last play of regulation. The game is on the line and Joel Embiid, a giant person and an MVP front runner, has the ball out at the three point line and Keldon goes out to square him up. No hesitation. I can’t speak to his fear levels, but KJ doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who goes into any play scared about what’s going to happen. Embiid goes to his bread and butter, two big dribbles towards the baseline, spin inside, and the pivot back for a jumper. This entire time Keldon stays with him and bodies him up. He doesn’t bite on anything, he doesn’t foul, and he doesn’t try to be a hero. He just forces one of the best players in the world to have to take the toughest possible shot available to him. Because that’s what heroes do.
  • Obviously most of the focus is on the young guys last night, but I feel like it’s important to make note of Rudy Gay reaching back in time and putting on his Young Guy suit for an evening. He did a little bit of everything in this one. He guarded big guys, he guarded small guys, he ran the floor, he drained clutch threes, and he even functioned as a makeshift DeMar Derozan on some iso plays when we needed him him to. I don’t know what to do with a performance like this from Rudy other than to nod appreciatively and hope he stops by again soon.
  • Lonnie Walker looked great again and I just wish I knew how to coax this version out of him on a more consistant basis. He seems like he surfs along on waves of confidence and if that confidence isn’t there then it’s almost like his whole persona becomes inert. I don’t know exactly why his confidence seems to ebb and flow the way that it does, but he is so special when he’s on and hopefully it's just a matter of time before he figures out how to regulate it.
  • On a night when the Spurs actually served up a veritable smorgasbord of cool dunks for us to delight in, I think Lonnie’s has to take home the crown. An incredible back cut (featuring a low-key amazing feed from Gorgui Deng) and then going up with his left hand across his body while getting fouled. Amazing moment. Thanks as always to Forever Spur Danny Green for sacrificing his body to the cause.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- Cream of Mushroom Soup, ramen noodles, and canned tomatoes? Surely this game was better than whatever concoction would result from those ingredients, right?

- I feel like there’s an apocryphal story about how Chicken Tikki Masala was invented when a cook in Glasgow put tomato soup in a chicken curry and it turned out to be great.

- Sure, but that's different than noodles, mushroom soup and tomatoes. That’s something a psycho would eat.

- Well...yea but that’s the point of a pantry meal! Sometimes you gotta just play the hand you’re dealt and hope you don’t get food poisoning.

- .......have you...made this before?

- It’s not in my nature to be mysterious. But I can’t talk about it and I can’t talk about why.