Season 50, Game 65
San Antonio 107, Golden State 85
51-14, 2nd in the West
What was anticipated to be one of the most exciting and important games of the season turned into a dud, an exhibition of the NBA’s grueling schedule and the grind these players put their bodies through each and every day, rather than the sublimity of their athleticism and talent.
I’m in the minority, likely, as I enjoy the games when the Spurs’ “others” are forced to carry the load. You’ll never get closer to “the beautiful game” we saw in 2014 than when it’s just the bench and non-stars, because that’s the only way that cast of characters can reasonably compete in the NBA. For one night, the ball was whipping around, the team was bombing away from 3, and it was electric in the AT&T Center. (This isn’t to take away from the sheer brilliance of Kawhi and LaMarcus; they just function better in different situations and roles. The way the team plays with Kawhi is still the best path to ultimate success.)
Of course, these “others” had such success in part because of who they were playing against. As Pop said afterwards, “it wasn’t a fair fight”. The Warriors were literally without their five best players on a team specifically engineered to be top-heavy. Even without Kawhi and LaMarcus, the Spurs were no match for that Warriors squad.
The win was nice, and while the game was short on stars, it was long on consequence. With the victory, the Spurs are a mere 1/2 game back from the Warriors for the 1-seed. Also by virtue of the victory, the Spurs now own the tiebreaker over the Warriors. Believe it or not, the Spurs are in control of the 1-seed. While the usual party line still applies that “getting there healthy” is still the most important thing, the difference between the 1-seed and the 2-seed is likely the difference between playing the Nuggets or Blazers, the Jazz or Clippers, and then the Warriors with home court advantage; or playing the Grizzlies or Thunder, the Rockets, and then the Warriors without home court advantage. That’s a stark difference.
With regards to how the two teams actually match up, nothing can be learned from Saturday night. From the Spurs side, it was nice to see Patty get his shot going (and his play did make me wonder how he would look as the full-time starter; his shooting could actually do wonders for the starting line-up); it was nice to see Bertans get some burn and show off his shot and how valuable he could be as a scorer off the bench; it was nice to see Kyle play a solid NBA game; it was nice to see Dedmon get back to his energetic and game-effecting ways; it was nice to se Manu still be the orchestra conductor.
But nothing matters as much as the health of the two at the top. From all accounts, Kawhi’s injury is not serious. He is progressing though the concussion protocol, teammates and staff seemed unworried, and even hinted that they hope to have him for Monday’s game.
LaMarcus, on the other hand, is much more serious. You don’t mess around with brains, and you don’t mess around with hearts. It may end up being a minor thing, as well. But Aldridge’s heart episode is a necessary reminder that this is still just a game played for fun and enjoyment. Ensuring he has a long and healthy live that he can enjoy is much more important. There will be more tests on Monday, and hopefully he’ll be able to return to the court fully healthy soon. The most important part of that last sentence, though, is “fully healthy”. Best wishes and full health, LaMarcus.
The Spurs face the up-and-down Atlanta Hawks in San Antonio on Monday night. The Hawks beat the Spurs in OT earlier in the season, so they are owed one.
Go Spurs Go.