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Winning Ugly Is Still Winning

By Jeff Koch on January 13, 2014.

San Antonio 101, New Orleans 95

The Pelicans always play the Spurs tough. Perhaps this is why I think of them as a good team, even though their record might indicate otherwise. Coming into tonight’s game they were without 3 of their top 5 players and they still gave us everything we could manage. Based on effort, the Pelicans were the better team tonight.

Luckily, talent and execution are also a significant portion of the game. Even with injuries of their own, the Spurs were clearly the more talented team. And even playing on the second night of a back-to-back and putting forth the minimal amount of effort, the Spurs still just execute a lot better than New Orleans. When the game gets down to the nitty gritty, Tony Parker > Brian Roberts (and Roberts had a career night).

For large stretches of the game it didn’t appear as if we’d even get to crunch time. The Pelicans completely controlled the large stretches of this game, getting double digit leads in both halves. The Spurs offensive execution was putrid, often missing the correct pass, sticking with ‘good’ when ‘great’ was available, and looking totally confused. Starting Manu did very little to help the offense, and you can see why the team falls into place better with him running the second unit: Ginobili’s talents are often ‘wasted’ in the first few minutes of the game playing alongside Parker and Duncan.

It’s also evident in watching the second unit without him, which was just horrifying in the first half tonight. They were just plain bad on both ends of the court. Of course, Ginobili didn’t help much, as he looked rusty and out of sorts for most of the game, no matter which unit he was playing with.

It was a game of attrition, with a bunch of mental and physical lapses from the Spurs everywhere on the court.

Still, when it  came time to win, the Spurs had just enough to pull it out. Parker hit some crazy shots, Boris continued his hot stretch of improbably great D against awesome players, Manu and Marco had just enough frenetic energy, and Kawhi did just enough Kawhi things. And the Pelicans did just enough young team things.

Watching these games can be completely frustrating, because you want the team to play perfectly every night, to be “The Spurs”, like they are a video game, not human, basketball playing robots. We forget that things like fatigue, travel, health, personal lives–all the things that affect you and me–also exist in these players’ lives. The Spurs are about as close to a machine as you have in the NBA, and you’ll still get a dozen or more games like this every season. What makes the Spurs so remarkable is their consistent excellence. It’s not their highest of highs, but rather their ability to stay at a higher level for a longer period of time than just about any other team.

And wouldn’t you know it, they’re the first team to 30 wins this season. Ho hum.

Success isn’t a goal, it’s a byproduct.

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