I’m writing part of this on my phone on the way back to San Marcos from San Antonio.
I got a pair of free tickets to Tuesday night’s game between the Spurs and Warriors. (If you aren’t signed up for the Spurs Give newsletter, you’re missing out.) I actually had a choice between this game, Thursday’s game against the Heat, or Friday’s game against the Rockets. And I chose the Warriors game because, you know, they’re the Warriors.
I had a friend who had never been to an NBA game before and so I offered him my spare ticket if he would drive us. He’s a ride-or-die Carmelo Anthony fan and did not have a rooting interest one way or another, but he was excited just to cross something off his bucket list. I was genuinely excited, too.
But then I noticed a whole lot of bad omens. I checked the injury report Tuesday morning and saw that, on top of Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson had been ruled out. “Oh well,” I thought. “At least I’ll see what the Andrew Wiggins hype is about.”
I then proceeded to have a terrible day at work. I ran into an issue that caused me to clock out 45 minutes later than I was expecting. I hurried home and had to rush my decision of what to wear — I settled on a generic gray Spurs shirt that had a cool design over a Tim Duncan jersey and a Manu Ginobili replica jersey with a white undershirt.
My friend and I had planned to leave at 6 p.m. We didn’t end up leaving until 6:20 for a 7:30 tip. It’s about an hour drive from San Marcos to San Antonio. And of course, because it’s a Warriors game, there’s an insane amount of traffic trying to cram into the parking lot.
So we finally get inside, the game’s already started, and the Spurs are up 15-8 with eight minutes left in the first quarter.
And I thought, “Wow, Dejounte must be clamping Steph.”
I soon found out that neither Stephen Curry nor Andrew Wiggins was playing, on top of all the other inactive players, and that Spurs couldn’t even beat the team that was left over from Golden State.
Here are my main highlights from being inside AT&T Center on Tuesday:
- The first thing my friend wanted to do after walking in was to use the restroom. I told him it was no problem. I would go buy us a couple of beers and I’d be waiting for him when he got out. He said he wanted a Corona. So I walked up to the bartender ... and quickly realized they had none. I asked if there was anywhere I could get one, and the bartender told me there would be some in the hallway/bodega/vestibule/self-checkout concession line. So I ordered a Dos Equis on draft and told my friend when he got out of the bathroom he’d need to go get a Corona himself. He went all the way through the line and then came out with a tall can of Bud Light. It turns out they don’t actually sell Corona. But also, the can came out to be just as much as what I paid for the Dos Equis on draft — plus tip. And I got a souvenir Spurs cup with mine. So if you ever end up going to a game in person, keep that in mind.
- We finally got to our seats in Section 213 with about three minutes left in the first quarter. Devin Vassell made a 3-pointer right as we got there to make it 27-20. But then on the next possession, Juan Toscano-Anderson made a shot and I actually heard a lot of cheers. They came from all around — the three gentlemen behind me, the 7-year-old kid wearing a Lakers crewneck to my right, the lady with a blue Steph Curry jersey in front of me. I knew to expect some Warriors fans. But I was totally naive about the number that would be in attendance. I should’ve known by the amount of traffic outside the arena, but I thought it’d be mostly people like me who just wanted to see the Spurs go up against one of the top teams in the league — not a fan of the Warriors wanting to see their team go up against (with all due respect) one of the bottom teams in the league. It was definitely noticeable, particuarly when the Spurs shot free throws and especially in crunch time.
- The first quarter ends and the Spurs are leading 36-30. And then the second quarter ends and San Antonio is leading 69-61. My friend I go grab some chicken strips from the H-E-B Fan Zone during halftime (which I highly recommend). But all the while, I wonder if the Silver and Black are going to put their foot down and play defense. And then it happened! The Spurs started getting stops, which led to fast breaks and transition looks at the rim. I had just listened to Zach Lowe say on his podcast over the weekend how Dejounte doesn’t finish very well on drives — he’s making 53.2% on shots within 10 feet. And yet, I saw Murray go 7-10 inside the paint through the first three quarters on Tuesday and thought maybe he was trying to put those rumors to bed. I also saw before the game that San Antonio was a two-point underdog. So by the time the hosts had built up a 17-point lead, I figured a lot of people were about lose some money on the Warriors.
- The Spurs went into the fourth quarter up 104-89, which should’ve been enough to pull out the win against a team that was missing its most important players. But Golden State chose to roll a small-ball lineup featuring 6-foot-7, 225-pound rookie Jonathan Kuminga at center. San Antonio had already lost Jakob Poeltl and Jock Landale to head injuries and, in response, didn’t play Drew Eubanks at all in the fourth quarter. They didn’t shatter the “break in case of emergency” glass to throw out Thaddeus Young (who might’ve been the perfect counter in that situation) or even Juancho Hernangomez. Instead, they also went microscopic, throwing Doug McDermott, Keita Bates-Diop and I think maybe Keldon Johnson at times at the 5, and Jonathan Kuminga just feasted against all of them. None of the three artificial “bigs” for the Spurs were able to protect the rim, allowing Kuminga to score 14 points in the period — 10 of them coming inside the paint. Kuminga’s last field goal tied the score at 114-114 with 2:34 left in the game.
- My friend originally told me he wanted to leave with around five minutes remaining so that we would beat the traffic jam that we encountered on the way in. But as the game kept getting tighter, the more he wanted to stay for just a little bit longer. He was waiting for the Spurs to give him one good reason to leave. And they never could. You would think that a smaller lineup would result in better offensive efficiency for San Antonio, but that wasn’t the case for the hosts, who scored just 16 points in the final quarter. Dejounte Murray took the lead back two more times in the final moments of the game. They even forced a miss by Jordan Poole that probably would’ve ended the game had they gotten the defensive rebound. But after a mad scramble, Moses Moody came out with the ball and the Warriors found Poole again wide open in the left corner, who knocked down the trey. I admire Devin Vassell for having the gumption to take the go-ahead 3-pointer on the next possession. But once he missed it, the game was over.
In the end, my friend had an excellent time, as did most of the people who were sitting around us. Obviously it could have gone better for the one Spurs fan in the immediate area, but I was glad the tickets were free. I would’ve been much more disappointed had I paid to see meltdown, as I’m sure many people did. This game proved again that the Spurs are not talented enough to overlook a team that’s missing its headliners.