Season 51, Game 39
San Antonio 106, Philadelphia 112
26-13, 3rd in the West

All in all, that actually wasn’t a bad game.

Granted, the Spurs’ defense looked porous at best, allowing the Sixers’ offense to look like the 2014 Spurs out there. Every back cut Philadelphia made was met with little to no resistance, leading to a dunk or layup. Nor could they secure a defensive rebound to save their lives. (Or, more accurately, to win the game.) And they did send the Sixers to the free throw line an absurd 43 times–only four of which were intentional.

On the other end of the court, the Spurs looked out of sorts for large chunks of the game. And it appeared that the Sixers were in possession of the Spurs’ playbook, seeming to know every cut, pass, and move before the Spurs even made it. The usual clever plays by the Spurs were completely swallowed up, usually leading to turnovers.

Putting all of that aside, though, it was a pretty good game for the Spurs.

Down five important rotation players, the Spurs put up a valiant fight. Bryn Forbes was excellent on offense, showing that there is more to his game than just long-range shooting. Davis Bertans also played well, using his energy and shooting to spark the team out of their doldrums in both halves.

Kyle Anderson continues to show his all-around impressive game.He tallied 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. He was the de facto PG on the court, and in his fourth season, plays with a calm and a confidence that shows he has a place in this league.

Patty Mills had his highest-scoring game of the season. More importantly, he kept fighting, and kept the rest of the team fighting.

Even bit players like Brandon Paul and Derrick White had their moments, using their short stints to showcase their energy and acumen.

So what then, was the problem? There was no center to hold, no rug to tie the room together. In other words, LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t play like a superstar.

This isn’t a direct criticism of Aldridge. He played hard, and he never mentally or physically checked out of the game. He finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds, which is a stellar line. But he just didn’t have his shooting touch tonight, particularly early. It happens.

The Sixers were also totally keyed into him defensively, and they didn’t let him get anything easy nor let the offense focus around him. Even a simple dump-in to him in the post was hard work. In turn, it gummed up the entirety of the Spurs’ offense.

This is not Aldridge’s fault; he competed. But in games like these, with no Tony Parker, no Manu Ginobili, no Danny Green, no Rudy Gay, and no Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs have a razor-thin margin for victory. And that imaginary line is the one between “star” and “superstar”. On this night, LaMarcus could not cross the line, and thus could not carry the Spurs over the finish line to victory.

Which is fine on a Wednesday night in January on the second night of a back-to-back. The more important aspect of this game is how all those other players played, and how those performances can translate when the Spurs are playing with a full roster.

It’s a lot to be excited about.

The Spurs travel home to face the Suns Friday night before heading back out on another 3-game road trip.

Go Spurs Go.