Season 51, Game 58
San Antonio 99, Utah 101
35-23, 3rd in the West

If you strip away the manner in which the team lost, this game actually should be encouraging. (We’ll emphasize the should be for now, as there is no encouragement in Spurs-land these days.)

Down their three best scorers playing the hottest team in the league on their own floor, this game had the makings of a blowout. Outside of LaMarcus Aldridge–who did not play–the team’s most consistent players have been a 40-year old and the #30 draft pick from a few years ago with the nickname “SloMo”.

This doesn’t inspire confidence. And yet, the team fought hard (as they typically do), and had a 13-point lead early in the 4th quarter. But continuing the trend of the last few months, the Spurs just can’t seem to have nice things. The Jazz are like the less flashy version of the Spurs (is that even possible?), and they executed just a bit crisper, shot just a bit better, and got slightly better production from their role players, eking out a 2-point victory.

The Jazz should have won. I can’t stress this enough: the Spurs did not have their three best scorers. They started the game already down like 60 points of regular scoring. The Jazz are playing amazing right now, and probably have superior talent at most positions.

Yet the loss still stung. The game felt like a chance to turn the season around. Instead, it was just another stall out in a season full of false starts, dashed hopes, and diminishing returns.

Since December 12th, the Spurs are 16-15, a .500 team. That’s 31 games, well over half the season. In that 2-month span, they have a net rating of +2.4. This is still 8th in the NBA, but decidedly not excellent. The team’s offensive rating in this time is 104.5, 23rd in the league, behind such offensive luminaries like the Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Chicago Bulls.

That’s the problem: for most of the season, the team has been decidedly average, missing their best player, and suffering through a rash of injuries and absences from their other players. There has been no extended streak of health or rhythm, no chance to actually engage in the season. It’s been months long battle of attrition.

It’s been wearing on the team and its fans. I’m ready for the All-Star break. And I’m sure most of the Spurs are, too.

First, though, the team must complete what might be the most difficult back-to-back in the league: Utah and Denver on consecutive nights. That’s insane. The Spurs should not win on Tuesday night, but here’s hoping they do to provide some glimmer of hope heading into the extended break.

Go Spurs Go.