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Capitulation

By Jeff Koch on May 18, 2017.

2017 Western Conference Finals
San Antonio 100, Golden State 136
Warriors lead series 2-0

For the first time in a long time, I did not want to watch a Spurs game.

I almost never watch the games live for a variety of reasons. So for the most part, I know the end result before I witness the opening tip. I’m lucky that I have more wins to look forward to than losses as a Spurs fan; but even with most losses, there’s something worth watching, a performance to marvel at, an end-of-bench player to get excited about, a hint of some long-term master plan from Pop.

Not Tuesday night, though. There was nothing. No there there. No fight. No hope. Just surrender.

Of course, a lot of us knew this before the game. After everything that happened in game one and its aftermath, game two’s result felt predetermined. Did anyone honestly believe the Spurs had a chance to win without Kawhi Leonard?

In the postgame, Pop let his team have it a bit, questioning their confidence, saying they didn’t believe they could win. He was right, of course; the team played the game like the result was already in the books and there was nothing they could do to change it. (Even Jonathan Simmons, who had a solid game, didn’t really play like he thought the team could win. As pundits like Barkley always say, somebody has to score the points on a bad team.)

I put some of this on Pop, though. While I appreciated the candor and anger in his comments in the wake of Game 1, I also feel like they set the stage for Game 2. The team was obviously wounded from the loss of Kawhi, and Pop’s comments let them off the hook a bit, gave them an excuse to lay down in Game 2. He gave voice to what most of us thought and believe: without Kawhi, this team has no chance. Game 2 was just confirmation of an already held belief.

In the end, though, there’s no point trying to dissect anything from Game 2. Without Kawhi, this team really has almost no chance. The difference in talent is just too great, let alone the difference in belief. If this game shows us anything, it just confirms that Kawhi is the keystone, the piece around which the entirety of the roster fits together. Without him, the whole thing comes crumbling down. You can fake it for a game or two against a weaker opponent, but not in the Conference Finals, not against the Golden State Warriors.

So now we cling to the hope that Kawhi can return for Game 3 and he can return healthy. If he’s not healthy, don’t play him. It’s not worth risking a more severe injury, and a less-than-healthy Kawhi won’t be enough, anyway. I expect everybody to play better in Game 3 than they did in Game 2, regardless of Kawhi’s status. So at least the game might be a little more interesting.

It still likely isn’t enough.

What’s most frustrating, though, is just not knowing. I never believed the Spurs could win this series, but what a letdown to not even get the chance to find out. Without facing the Warriors at full strength, it feels like these losses have no meaning. No growth, no development, nothing learned. Just a short-handed team losing to a superior opponent, a completely ordinary game of basketball more indicative of a random Wednesday night in February than the Western Conference Finals.

Game 3 is Saturday night. Here’s hoping it’s better than Game 2.

Go Spurs Go.