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By Jeff Koch on November 23, 2016.

Season 50, Game 14
San Antonio 96, Dallas 91
11-3, 3rd in the West

Coach Pop gets the first word after Monday’s uninspiring win against the Dallas Mavericks:

In all honesty, that should probably be the last word, as well. Watching the game, I didn’t see things quite the same as Pop. Yes, the Spurs didn’t play all that inspired against a very short-handed but scrappy Mavs team.

To be fair, though, the Spurs were without Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge. To compound the loss of those two stalwarts, Pop started two unproven rookies – Dejounte Murray and Davis Bertans – rather than substituting more capable back-ups. It’s good experience for the young players, but it is a bit disingenuous to throw them to the wolves, then complain that the wolves tore them apart.

Games like this are always trap games. It’s hard to bring your best against a team that doesn’t have a best. Sure, Seth Curry did his best impersonation of his brother in the game. And Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews played up to their lofty contracts. Rick Carlisle is a wizard. Even with all of that (and the Spurs playing sub-optimally), the Spurs were able to hang around and pull out the win.

We know why Pop said what he said, though. He likes to rip into his team early in the season. He’s just looking for a game that gives him any excuse to question their toughness, their fiber. He wants to stay on them, to head off complacency at the pass.

This season it’s even more critical to keep on the team. They’ve lost Tim Duncan, their compass. They have more questions up and down the roster than any other season in the last 19. And the two teams ahead of them in the West are clearly better. If they want to make any noise in the playoffs, they need to come together and play to the absolute best of their abilities and chemistry.

In that prism, it’s easy to see why Pop was so agitated after the game. Sure, it was enough to beat the Mavs. It was also enough to get run off the floor by the Clippers and shot out of the gym by the Warriors. That is the night-to-night and season-long standard by which Pop is measuring all else. The rest is just noise and process.

Thankfully, it’s Thanksgiving, not Easter, and the team has a lot of time to figure it out and calm Pop down. (Just kidding: Pop has no coaching chill.)

The Spurs travel to Charlotte to play the Hornets tonight. They always seem to play poorly there. Here’s hoping that changes this season.

Go Spurs Go.