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What We Learned from the Spurs’ loss to the Pelicans

The Spurs are who we thought they would be.

New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

I’ll try and keep this short and sweet because I know a lot of you are getting ready to spend Thanksgiving Day with your family, and the Spurs probably won’t be the happiest topic. Of course, 40 days ago you probably didn’t have any plans to discuss them at your family get-togethers anyways. They weren’t supposed to be good from the outset, so it came as a pleasant surprise to many when they started the season 5-2.

The offense was clicking surprisingly well for such a hodgepodge, young group. The defense was sharp with its rotations, crashed the boards, was good at not fouling, and first to every 50-50 ball. About the only complaint was how much they were giving up on the fast break. However, all of that has coming crashing back down to reality in what has since been a 1-11 stretch. The team has been mindbogglingly bad in the first quarter, coming out flat on offense and slow on defense. Double-digit deficits have become the norm, and the Spurs have yet to win a game this season when down by double figures after the first quarter.

Some — but not all — of the offensive struggles can be attributed to a shooting slump from Keldon Johnson. (Unfortunately, his franchise-record streak of games with a made three came to an end last night). It probably also doesn’t help that teams have learned they can sag off of Tre Jones and Jeremy Sochan on defense, so that puts all the more pressure on Johnson and Devin Vassell to produce points. That being said, the struggles on the offensive end were to be expected, but it doesn’t excuse the poor defense.

One thing that was a staple of the first four Spurs championship teams was even when the offense let them down, the defense was always there to keep them competitive. The Spurs currently have the pieces to be at least an average defensive team, but the youth has been showing through lately with poor rotations leading to way too many open threes or easy backdoor cuts for the opponent. Some of that can possibly be attributed to the young Spurs getting down on themselves when they’re struggling to score.

That’s all part the maturity process, and this team is and will continue to suffer through growing pains, but that’s ok. Just because the Spurs are who we thought they would be doesn’t mean a bright future doesn’t lie ahead. Regardless of where this team is in the rebuilding process, the city of San Antonio and fans all around the world will always be thankful to have them. (That wasn’t really short and sweet, but oh well.)


  • Sochan didn’t have his best night. Sure, he shot well, finding his way into the paint for 12 efficient points, but it was a frustrating game for him. He was in foul trouble throughout the night, and he got the rookie treatment from Zion Williamson. He took an elbow to the back of the head, and then hit his head on the floor after getting bodied by Williamson on a layup. To add insult to injury, Zion flexed at him while he was laying on the floor (bordering on a taunting technical), and then he turned and faced Sochan again with a double flex after the Spurs called timeout to make sure he was okay. Williamson continued to make gestures throughout the night, and the rookie showed good maturity and control to not retaliate in any way. That’s part of the NBA growing experience.
  • For the pro-tankers who say Doug McDermott should be traded because his shooting potentially helps the Spurs too much, you’re misguided. He doesn’t necessarily make the Spurs better; he just makes them more watchable, especially during their low points. His 11 points in the first quarter was the only reason the Spurs didn’t have a single-digit score after 12 minutes, and while this team is currently bogged down in a multi-game offensive rut, he’s one of the few bright spots. I don’t know why anyone who is committed to watching every Spurs game this season wouldn’t want his shooting on this team.
  • I’ll never be one to root for the Lakers, but I hope they can turn things around just enough to avoid giving the Pelicans a high lottery pick, or at the bare minimum, one of the top four slots. (For those who are unaware, New Orleans owns the right to swap picks with the Lakers in the upcoming draft via the Anthony Davis trade.) They already have a former top overall pick in Williamson — who was considered a generational talent when he was drafted and still could become one if he can stay healthy — as well as former second overall pick Brandon Ingram (also from the Davis trade). Not to mention, they had their chance with top pick Davis and 4th overall pick Chris Paul even further back in the day. In other words, the Pelicans have had their share of high lottery picks to work with over the last 15-20 years, so now it’s someone else’s turn. (That being said, I hope the Spurs bust out of their losing streak and beat the Lakers on both Friday and Saturday because that would also make me happy.)
  • Ending on a happy note: KJ has officially pulled a Manu Ginobili. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!