Season 50, Game 74
San Antonio 98, Golden State 110
57-17, 2nd in the West
With this loss, the Spurs all but seal their fate.
It’s not a bad fate. The 2nd best team (by record) in the NBA is a place many would be envious of. There will be tough series along the way, but the Spurs should be the favorites to make it to the Western Conference Finals. And as the wisdom goes, once you’re there, anything can happen.
The problem is, that “anything” will need to happen against the Golden State Warriors. And the Warriors are really really good at basketball. And likely only getting better.
Did we learn anything from this game? Perhaps. Without Kevin Durant, this felt a lot like last year’s Warriors team. And while we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain to meet them in last year’s playoffs, this game felt like a similar domination last year’s squad had over us.
To be fair, we did dominate them for about 10 minutes. But the 22-point lead we opened up on them pales in comparison to the 34-point beatdown they put on us over the final 38 minutes. As promising as those opening minutes were, the closing minutes are equally as demoralizing.
Let’s not read too much into one game, though. If we wanted to go down that route, we could look at opening night and say, “See, we can beat these guys fairly easily”. Still, I think last night is probably more indicative of a future playoff match-up, and there’s definitely some worrisome observations:
–Kawhi had a very bad night, and is having a pretty disappointing (by his extremely lofty standards) end of the season. As I’ve been saying for a few weeks, he looks a little tired. His shot seems a bit flat. He’s really slumping from deep. He’s made a few more uncharacteristic defensive mistakes than usual.
Teams are really starting to double-team him, and it’s a new process for him to learn. To his credit, his playmaking has been really good of late. Like most things with Kawhi, you can almost seem him learning in real time. We have 8 more games for him to figure out how to play with more defensive attention and still be efficient and effective.
Kawhi needs to have a dominating playoff run.
–Parker looks unplayable against these guys. We’ve discussed the Parker Problem quite a bit, but it’s starting to feel like we’ve passed critical mass. Waiting for “good” Tony feels a lot like waiting for Godot.
–After a sterling regular season, the Spurs’ bigs are starting to look like who we thought they were on the defensive end. Lee and Gasol both struggled containing the Warriors’ smalls, and their ability to hit the 3 stretched our defense thin and broke it. Aldridge and Dedmon had better luck in that regard. But we still need a better answer.
–The Spurs bench was outplayed by the Warriors bench. Remember, the fear with getting Durant was that it would cost them depth. For them to have more depth and have Kevin Durant is a slap in the face.
To beat the Warriors, the Spurs have to decisively win the bench battle. This has been a fairly consistent theme over the last few season when the Spurs are finally eliminated from the playoffs: the team that beats us gets better bench production, despite our bench being the better bench in the regular season.
Mills, Ginobili, Lee, and Gasol really need to show up.
–Pop needs to figure out who the back-up wing is. Simmons is in an extended dog house stay. He can be hit or miss, but his athleticism is sorely needed.
–Danny Green played really well.
What’s next? There are still 8 games left in the regular season. All the Spurs need to clinch the 2-seed is one more win, or one more Rockets loss. Seems likely to happen.
So let’s assume we have the 2-seed. Does Pop start resting? I think it’s smart to prepare physically for the playoffs, but you can’t just throw away 8 games. Particularly when we still have to face the Thunder, the Jazz (twice), the Clippers, the Grizzlies, and the Blazers. The team still needs to play competitive basketball and figure out rhythm and chemistry issues.
That being said, the actual won-loss record is of less importance. So I imagine Pop will use the games as laboratories to try and fine-tune some things going into the playoffs, without overextending anyone. Personally and selfishly, I’d like to see the team get at least 3 more wins to reach 60. That seems doable.
Personally and selfishly, I’d also like to see the team beat the Thunder on Friday night.
Go Spurs Go.