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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Raptors

The Spurs suffer another loss as a grim road trip continues.

Toronto Raptors beat the San Antonio Spurs with crowd restrictions of 1000 people allowed in the building because of surging COVID-19 cases in Ontario Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

This wasn’t very fun.

It didn’t look fun to play in. It wasn’t fun to watch. It certainly isn’t fun to continue to think about. All in all, this was a game that we would all probably like to go ahead and dump in the trash bin and move on from.

The good news, I guess, is that this was a game lush with learning opportunities for our young, growing team. Coach Popovich and his cohorts are likely rubbing their hands together with glee at the thought of cutting together a lowlight reel from last night to throw in anyone’s face whenever they get a little too high on their horse.

“You think you’re pretty hot stuff, eh? Well, remember that time you left Fred Van Fleet wide open 40 times over the course of one quarter? Let’s watch.”

“Oh, I see you seem to think you’re good at basketball now. Well I remember a night in Toronto not too long ago when you gave up 26 points off 20 turnovers. Let’s run the tape.”

I don’t think Pop is quite as vindictive as that clever little caricature, but I do think he’s going to be much better at finding value from this game then I will. He’s seen it all at this point and is probably more immune to the ups and downs of this league than we are. He can watch something like last night and see how a mistake is being made and know why someone is making it. I watch it and all I can see is a basketball play gone wrong. He sees a learning opportunity and I can only see an opportunity lost. At least, I hope that’s how it works.

The Spurs were starting to get a grip on this season and then, all of a sudden, they lost it. Some combination of injuries, Covid, and the daily grind of a very long season has knocked them off of what seemed to be a pretty promising track. It’s hard not to feel a pang of disappointment at that, but it’s fine. Really. It’s not fun, but it’s fine. The truth is that there’s always going to be little bumps and bruises along the way and part of the process we’re in is learning how to deal with things like that. They’re called growing pains for a reason.

There is still a lot of season left for things to turn around again. Dejounte Murray will be back in the lineup on Friday and, hopefully, he will be able to bring some stability and leadership to a squad that is clearly desperate for both. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where, by the end of January, the horrendous start of this road trip is nothing more than a blip on San Antonio’s surprising mid season surge up the Western Conference standings.

Time will tell. For now, we have to be content in the knowledge that some good will probably come from this game away from our watchful eyes. Someone will learn something and someone else will be motivated by something and someone else will find a thing they can use later. That work is going on behind the scenes and you know what the best part about it is?

We don’t have to think about this game ever again.

Takeaways:

  • I’d almost forgotten how eerie it is to watch games happening in an empty arena. It has the startling effect of giving a game between real NBA players a tepid “pickup game at the local gym” vibe. Even when the standard of play is high, something feels a off about it. The smartest thing the NBA did during Covid was have the Playoff Bubble games happen in that sort of closed off gym with the big screens down at Disney. It was weird! But in an almost fun and unique way. It felt like we were watching a once in a lifetime event instead of, you know, “basketball during the apocalypse”.
  • I had completely forgotten that Josh Primo was Canadian. There’s a good chance that I never knew it at all. It’s like my brain registered that he went to the University of Alabama and just logged Canada as being too far away geographically to be a part of his origin story. Regardless, I always love a good plays well in his hometown story. Can you imagine what that kind of pressure would be like? Trying to hit a jump shot in the NBA would squash me like a bug under normal circumstances so adding any more emotional layers to it is unfathomable.
  • I’m not worried about Keldon Johnson right now. Are you worried about him? Should we be? Are we on Keldon Watch? Because we were on Derrick White Watch for a little bit to start the season and then he really turned things around so I feel confident the Keldon can pull a similar maneuver moving forward. Sometimes we have bad days! Heck, sometimes we have bad weeks! I had a bad month recently, but look at me now! Firing on all cylinders.
  • Maybe this is a sign of me getting older or maybe I just have a more refined palate than I used to, but something about watching Jakob Poeltl driving to the rim from beyond the three point line gets me more hyped up than almost anything else on the court these days. It just really gets me going. I don’t know how to explain it beyond just...he looks like something that doesn’t belong somewhere who is, nonetheless, asserting his right to be in that place. Like an Elk crashing through a fancy dinner party or a fighter jet landing on a residential street. There’s something about upending the natural order of things that makes the world feel like it’s full of bolder, brighter colors.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- Why is it harder writing about a loss than a win?

- Who said it was harder? I never said that.

- It feels harder, I guess, to get excited about looking under the hood of a loss.

- Well, as a journalist, you know, I don’t look at this like some binary, easy/hard equation, you know? There are certain wins where you just want to go, “they played good, what else do you wanna know?” and there are certain losses where the series of events that led to the loss are fascinating and compelling and you just can’t wait to get in there and figure it out with everyone. Then there’s everything in between. All games can’t be all things to all people.

- I’m not sure any of that made sense.

- Oh, it’s not supposed to! See, when I don’t have a real answer for your question, sometimes I just string together words and phrases for what seems like an acceptable period of time and then, usually, you just move on to the next thing.

- Why can’t you just say “I don’t know” or something?

- Pretty sure that move has been copyrighted by Popovich. I’m trying to find my own slant.