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One Of These Nights

By Jeff Koch on March 27, 2014.

Denver 103, San Antonio 108

On any given night, any NBA team can beat another On one of these given night, the Spurs will lose a game again. And we should be happy when it does.

Last night was a great chance, but a 20-point first half lead buys a lot of leeway. The Spurs looked like they have for the last month in the first half and were poised to roll to another easy win. But when things are rolling and going that smoothly, it’s easy to settle in, to skip steps, and to take things for granted. Even for this team. So when the Nuggets played energetically and aggressively in the second half, the Spurs seemed unable, unwilling, and, frankly, uninterested in matching the level. Manu had a little burst. Parker had a moment or two. Ditto Kawhi. And Duncan, as he has for 17 years, carried the team to the finish line.

Again, a 20-point cushion gives you freedom. 5 more minutes of game time and this might have surely been a loss.

The second half malaise doesn’t concern me. It’s a natural byproduct of the success, and last night was nothing special to worry about. The Nuggets won’t be in the playoffs.

If you want to worry, worry about Danny Green’s foot injury. An MRI today showed that there was no serious damage, it’s just a strain, and he’s listed as day-to-day. But he was visibly limping around out there, and the only way to fully recover from a foot injury is to get off of it. Green may seem like a tertiary player, but he helps to form the back bone of the defense, and his shooting is critical to the offense and the starting unit in particular. (It’s not just coincidence that the team slowed down without him in the second half.)

If you’re like me, though, this is what you’re most worried about: Tony Parker. All numbers aside, he just looked slow and disengaged out there. He wasn’t looking for his shot, which alone isn’t a bad thing. But he seemed unable to get his shot, and to get to his spots on the floor. His burst of speed (probably his trademark) didn’t seem to be there. He even had a few sure fast breaks (by Parker’s career standards) that he instead pulled back and reset the offense. He had zero zip, no pep. His jump shot, when he deigned to take it, was short–often the byproduct of tired legs. This is what I’ll be watching the remainder of the regular season. In Monday’s game (which he sat out), the team listed him as having a sore achilles. Most of us just assumed it was a typical rest pattern, but perhaps there is something more to this. The team seems less reliant this season than last on Parker’s offensive mastery, but we still need his energy, activity, and ‘zip’ to do anything meaningful in the Playoffs.

The team travels to Denver to play Friday night, then is back home Saturday night facing the Pelicans. I expect one if not two losses in this group. Both teams are out of the playoffs but playing very well, playing in Denver is always difficult, and then the quick turnaround back home will lead to tired legs and a lack of energy and focus. Honestly, a loss (or two) probably would be a good thing to help Pop get the team’s attention back and refocused. After Saturday’s game, the remaining schedule is a bear, full of playoff teams and title contenders, and nobody wants to be the team that peaked in March.

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