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Interminable | San Antonio 90, Houston 97

By Jeff Koch on January 29, 2014.

(Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports)

As in: what this game felt like to watch.

Sheesh. It’s not often that watching a Spurs game feels like work, but last night’s loss against Houston sure did. More than just the Hack-a-Howard during the 3rd quarter that lasted approximately 2 days, the whole game felt like it was stuck in the mud, moving in slow motion towards an uninspired conclusion.

The game started well enough, with the Spurs looking crisp, hitting shots, playing inside out and getting great looks everywhere on the floor. Duncan was rolling offensively and defensively, Dwight was frustrated, and the Spurs seemed in control. Playing the Rockets without Harden should be a win, even with the Spurs shorthanded.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the final buzzer: the game got completely mucked up, both teams going ice cold. I don’t know if it was really good defense or just really bad offense, but both teams struggled. Houston was able to get offensive rebounds and second chance points, which helped their cause considerably.

The Spurs on the other hand stopped executing. Tony Parker held the ball for way too long, tried to do it all on his own, and the ball stopped moving. When the ball stops, so does the Spurs offense. That may be the worst the offense has looked in some time.

And then Manu went down. Insult, meet injury.

With 4 key rotation players down, the limits of the Spurs’ systems will be pushed. “Next man up” is a popular refrain in sports, and the Spurs do it better than perhaps anybody. But talent, comfort, and repetition still count for something. When Nando De Colo came in early in the 3rd quarter after an almost wholesale substitution, I thought it was to send a message to the rest of the team. It was, in fact, because Nando was the next player up in the rotation.

Line-up craziness abounded all evening. Mills and Parker played a ton together, something that happens very little under normal circumstances. Ayres, Baynes, and Bonner all got ample playing time to try and get something approaching mediocre play out of the second big. Joseph played the 1, 2, and 3. Nando got lots of playing time in the second half.

And, you know, Manu went down.

Yet we still had our chances late in the game, cutting the lead to two possessions on a few occasions. Parker missed two free throws, Howard got a dunk on the other end. Possible 3 point game goes to 7. After getting a near-stop, Howard gets a big offensive rebound and dunk, 4 point game. And ball game.

And now the Spurs have their first losing streak of the season, at two games, which is saying something this far into the season.

So maybe the sky isn’t falling completely. Still, the next few weeks will be critical for the Spurs as they try to eek out as many wins as they can while trying to get whole and healthy.

Better now than April. (Please knock on wood now.)

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