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Even Marvin Gaye Had Some Clunkers

By Jeff Koch on December 23, 2010.

Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images

San Antonio 101, Orlando 123  //  25-4  //  1st in the West

Regular season NBA games do not exist in a vacuum, much as we’d like to think so. Every single game can’t be Team A at its best vs. Team B at its best. Extenuating circumstances abound, and play larger factors than we might imagine. Coming into tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic, the Spurs had just put the finishing touches on an exhausting and frenetic game against the Denver Nuggets 1,000 miles away and less than 24 hours prior. They showered, got dressed, got on a plane, flew for several hours, landed in Orlando, got on a bus, went to a hotel and went to bed. About 12 hours later they were on a court for yet another game.

The Orlando Magic made two mega-trades in the last week, shipping out 2 starters and at least 1 other significant bench player, and bringing in 3 important new pieces. Since then, they had lost 2 games (and had lost 8 or 9), been the talk of the entire league, and had been questioned and written off by pundits across the nation. They were a team with something to prove.

When a hungry team with something to prove comes up against a tired team with very little to prove, the hungry team will often win, especially in game 29 of the regular season. From the tip, the Magic were faster and more aggressive, and the Spurs had no juice. We were relying on jump shots and 3-pointers, hoping hot shooting could carry us to a win. We had little in the way of crisp execution or ball movement.

One need only look at one stat to tell the story of the game. 30-2. Fast break points. 30 for Orlando, 2 for us. Going into garbage time, it was 28-0. Coming into the game, Orlando was the worst fast-breaking team in the league at about 8 per game. And they got 30 against us. Fast break points happen for a few reasons. One, the other team is missing lots of shots, allowing you to take the rebound and run out. We missed lots of shots. They ran. Hell, they even ran after made baskets, as you could tell the order had come down from Stan Van Gundy to run early and run often. (On the other end, we were unable to get out and run because Orlando shot 60% from the field.) Two, fast break points happen when teams are tired, lazy, or both, and don’t get back in transition. We know the Spurs aren’t lazy; but they sure were tired tonight. The difference between crispness and tiredness is less than a step, and it was a step that we just didn’t have tonight.

By midway through the 3rd quarter, the writing was on the wall, and Pop pulled the starters and went with all reserves. To many, this might seem like an early concession to defeat. But putting reserves in at that point can be a good way to climb back into a game. When the starters clearly don’t have it going, let the other guys play. They’ll generally be fresher than the starters, and have more to prove, and might just provide the change of pace and energy that the team needs to get back in the game. If not, the starters get extended rest for the next game, and the reserves (such as Udoka and Splitter) get a nice does of rare playing time, which can only help them.

Honestly, we should be happy with winning one of these two games in the back to back set. Like I said, the NBA regular season doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and you can’t look at the schedule in a vacuum. When you see Denver at home followed by a game at Orlando the next night, you say win one of those games and it will be a victory. And we did.

Our schedule is pretty tough over the next couple of weeks with games against the Lakers, the Mavs, Oklahoma City, the Knicks, and Boston (with Washington thrown in for good measure). Looking at that schedule, I’d be happy with 3-3, hoping for 4-2 or better.

Let’s start off on the right foot by taking care of a poor Wizards team at home Sunday night.

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  1. Owen December 24, 2010

    I think Pop left the bench in for the second half to get them floor time against an elite team.


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