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A Hazy Shade Of Winter

By Jeff Koch on January 16, 2014.

Utah 105, San Antonio 109

A new term has been bandied about in the last few years, in response to the idea of a moral victory: moral defeat. You can probably more or less guess at the nature of its meaning: when you get the ‘win’ in name only.

I suppose last night’s game could fall under this category. Certainly the final 5 minutes of game time were morally deflating. But given a day to think about the game, I’ve backed away considerably from negative reactions settled comfortably in the apathetic middle. The Spurs beat the Jazz in January, as they should have. Behind the locked n play of Parker, Duncan, and Leonard the team used a huge 3rd quarter and a mid-4th quarter push to seemingly put the game away. Duncan sat; Ginobili sat. The bench came in to finish the game off, with Parker there to guide the ship.

A letdown is inevitable. And the Jazz, to their great credit, kept playing hard. Despite the team’s record and youth, man are they scary on any given night. The two bigs totally kill us every time we play them (they owned the offensive glass in the second half), and they have 3-4 completely freakish athletes who overwhelm every single Spurs player. The Spurs settled in for an easy win, the Jazz pushed the tempo and exploited a Duncan-less interior. Oh, and they didn’t miss a single big shot.

Sure, the defense was a bit lackadaisical. It was also a unit that hadn’t played together much at all. I look at it this way: which run was the more endemic to each team’s long-term success and potential, the Spurs’ first 8 minutes of the third quarter, or the Jazz’s final 5 minutes? The Spurs played within their system, running it to perfection, with regular rotations and against the other team’s starters. The Jazz played desperate and hungry against a relaxed team and unfamiliar unit. I take more solace in how well the Spurs played to put the game out of reach than how quickly the game got back within reach.

Besides, it’s the NBA: anything can happen. If you really want to feel better just remember that the Wizards were up by over 30 points on the Miami Heat in the 2nd quarter of their game last night, on their way to an easy win. There’s nothing moral about that: it’s just a defeat. At least the Spurs got the victory, qualified as it may be.

A few more thoughts from last night’s game:

–I really like Jeff Ayres. I’m going to keep writing about it, because as he keeps getting more comfortable in the system, he keeps bringing a lot of good things to the team. He got at least 5 wide open dunks just from constantly cutting and moving off the ball and presenting himself at the rim. A player like that will thrive in the Spurs’ system. And he plays great positional defense: he drew at least 2 charges on opposing bigs last night.

–Duncan had another ho-hum brilliant game. We always talk about Manu’s cat-like reflexes, but Tim has some of the best hand-eye coordination in the history of the game, which is what allows him to get so many flat footed blocks against “superior” athletes. (The term “athlete” essentially just means “strong” and “fast” nowadays, rather than accounting for things like hand-eye coordination, balance, timing, etc., all areas where Duncan excels, making him a superior athlete.)

–I enjoy Cory Joseph as a back-up 2-Guard, I really dislike him as a back-up PG. Considering Tony and Patty have PG pretty well covered, hopefully Joseph will get some more court time as a 2, or in multiple guard small line-ups (alongside either Patty or Tony). His energy and defense bring a lot to the team, but his PG skills really kill the flow of the offense. However, as an off-ball shooter and cutter, he is solid.

The Spurs play the Blazers in San Antonio on Friday night. Portland has cooled a bit after a scorching hot start, but are still dangerous and still look to be playoff contenders. I want this game bad.

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