Season 51, Game 62
San Antonio 116, New Orleans 121
36-26, 5th in the West
With a healthy LaMarcus Aldridge for the entire game, the Spurs likely win this.
Even without Aldridge, the Spurs completely blew this game late, giving up a sure-fire win in the final minutes of regulation.
Both things are true. Playing without their star and best player, the Spurs were still primed to get this much-needed win at home after a very poor Rodeo Road Trip. For 46 minutes, the Spurs looked really good, zipping the ball around and playing unselfish basketball to keep the Pelicans at bay.
But those final two minutes proved to be disastrous, as the Spurs turned the ball over on 3 pivotal possessions, allowing the Pelicans to climb back and take the the lead. Then, on a pivotal box out on a missed free throw, four Spurs were unable to keep Anthony Davis off the glass as he grabbed the rebound and helped put the game out of reach.
Honestly, the Spurs would have been better off if that free throw went in. Which is kind of a microcosm for the whole season, if you think about it. (Pro tip: don’t think about it.)
That’s the rub of this season: the Spurs are good enough (even without their top level talent) this season to stay competitive in every game, but have been uncharacteristically sloppy late in games, unable to secure “should be” wins. We think of the Spurs as a machine that can out-execute you to death, particularly late in games. Well, that’s not these Spurs.
Instead, these Spurs fail to execute simple inbounds plays; these Spurs miss wide-open shots to tie or take the leads late in game; these Spurs fail to get big defensive stops. (The Pelicans scored 70 points in the second half; it’s a miracle the often offensively-challenged Spurs remained competitive.)
There are often bright spots in every game, and the players play to the best of their abilities. There just isn’t enough ability out there right now.
These last few months have put the Spurs in a precarious position: fighting for their playoff lives. It seems almost impossible to think, but the Spurs are in real danger of missing the playoffs. There is an eight team logjam in the Western Conference fighting for six playoff spots. Of those 8 teams, the Spurs are probably playing the worst right now.
They need to start winning games at home. They need to start winning games against good but not great teams.
They just need some damn wins.
There are three types of games left: games against elite teams (better); games against teams in the logjam (their equals); and games against the bottom of the league and/or the Eastern Conference (worse).
They need to win all of their games against the bottom. I have not hope of them beating teams definitively better than them. The season, then, will be won or lost in how they fare against those teams stuck in the middle with them, the logjam of the Western Conference. They have 8 game remaining against that bunch. I’d like to see them go at least 5-3 in those games. 6-2 would be better.
Truthfully, right now I’d just like to see them beat any team. I have no confidence in this happening.
I hope they defy my expectations Saturday night against the Lakers.
Go Spurs Go.