Drought | Chicago 96, San Antonio 86
So this is how the other half lives, eh?
Midway through the 3rd quarter of this game, I got the strangest sensation that this is what it must be like to cheer for a mediocre to good team, a team that has up years and down years, talent but can’t always put it together, where any old win is visited with enthusiasm. As the Spurs fought hard but came up futilely short, I wondered if this is how the post-Duncan/post-Popovich era will feel.
Hopefully not. Because even then, I can’t imagine Cory Joseph and Nando De Colo being the best options at wing.
Chicago’s defense is great. San Antonio’s offense played right into it. We let the Bulls own the paint and chase us off the 3-point line, leaving only ‘the worst shot in basketball’, the long 2-pointer. We had fits of decent scoring (mostly Mills and Parker going off in the second quarter, “going off” used on a curve to account for the nature of this game), but were just terribly bogged down. The Spurs offense is one born of timing, rhythm, comfort, and continuity. You can plug in a piece and have it perform well, but it still needs the comfort of repetition and trust in the other pieces around it. Joseph can know what he is supposed to be doing, and Ayres can know what he is supposed to be doing…but can they know what to be doing together? And do it with the timing necessary to make it work? It’s one thing to be down a player or two, and have the 8th or 9th man step into his role and flourish; another thing completely to ask the 12th and 13th men on the bench to play critical roles in critical minutes with the likes of Parker and Duncan, when they most likely haven’t shared any meaningful court time all season with the starters.
This out of sync offense invariably leads to turnovers. 19, in fact. Leading to 16 points for the Bulls, and 14 fast break points. In a grind-it-out ugly fest like that game, 16 points might as well be 30.
Defensively, the rebounding continued to suffer without Splitter, Green, and Leonard. The Bulls snagged 14 offensive rebounds, leading to 12 more shots than the Spurs. Again, in an ugly game, 12 extra shots is like an extra quarter of free scoring.
There is no sugarcoating right now. The Spurs built a great early season record, and that should help ease some of the struggles sure to come. And they’ll get healthy in pieces, as one by one the missing players come back. Still, it will be a struggle for each player to regain their own rhythm, and for the team to find its rhythm around the returning players.
There’s a lot of season left, however, and never has the process been more necessary than right now. After these last two games it feels like the Spurs might never win another game. But droughts will hit every team. The hurt has happened; it’s time to put in the work.
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