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Spurs Cough Up Win To Red Hot Pelicans

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.

Spurs Dynasty Podcast – Episode 27

Go Spurs Go!

Finally, Something to Believe In

Season 51, Game 61
San Antonio 110, Cleveland 94
36-25, 3rd in the West

The Rodeo Road Trip certainly didn’t go according to plan, but the Spurs – desperate to snap their four-game losing streak – found a way to close it on a high note. San Antonio defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-94, led by their lone all-star LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished the game with 27 points and six rebounds. Though the big man led all scorers for San Antonio, he had a rough time in the first half. Aldridge shot 2-8 from the field before halftime, but managed to sink all eight of his free throws, keeping the Spurs within three at the break. Continue reading

Spurs Losing Woes Continue After All-Star Break

Season 51, Game 60
San Antonio 119, Denver 122
35-25, 3rd in the West

Something is rotten in San Antonio.

In all my years cheering for this team, I’ve never seen a situation quite like this. I’m sure everybody reading this has the same experience.

What in the heck is going on with Kawhi Leonard?

Speculation abounds; and not far behind speculation is accusation. Knowing so little, I’m loathe to do either. What we do know is that Kawhi’s injury is unlike anything we’ve seen before, and we know very little about its genesis or long-term prognosis; he is medically cleared to play; he doesn’t feel ready to play.

Everything after that is not publicly known. Pop gave a press conference last week saying he wouldn’t be surprised is Kawhi doesn’t come back. But that seemed aimed directly for Kawhi’s ears, not ours. Kawhi’s camp–when it does speak–denies any friction between the player and the organization, while new stories comes out every other day refuting that claim.

Kawhi has given no public statement in over a month. The Spurs organization seems unusually leaky, given their reputation for Cold War-era spy obfuscation.

And every day, Spurs fans freak out more and more.

Seriously, we’re not built for this. We are spoiled. We’ve had nearly 30 years of unparalleled success on and off the court.

I feel helpless as a fan. I want badly for Kawhi to come back and everything to be OK. But it certainly doesn’t seem like that will happen.

This has spilled over to my perception of the on-court product. The team is playing poorly, and it’s hard not to correlate the two. (Logically, I know it’s unlikely one affects the other so strongly, but emotionally it’s hard to deny.) Take away Kawhi, and the team is a star (LaMarcus Aldridge, who is a star but not a superstar) with a good but not great supporting cast of players too late in their career or too early in it.

Throw in the Kawhi drama, and it looks even worse.

The Spurs are 1-4 on the Rodeo Road Trip, easily the worst mark on the iconic annual trip. They have one game left against a rejuvenated Cleveland team, with a real chance to go 1-5 on the trip. They’ve lost 4 games in a row, and 6 of their last 7.

Continuing the 50-win streak is almost an impossibility at this point given how poor they’ve been playing and the difficulty of their remaining schedule (the hardest in the league). Beyond that, it’s a very real possibility that the team could finish in the bottom half of the West playoffs. Or, perhaps even out of the playoffs, a scenario completely unimaginable to the team and fans alike.

The team is able to remain competitive in most games, but is lacking that crispness and execution to finish most of them off. There is no rhythm, no cohesion, no collective will.

It is hard to watch, and even harder to enjoy.

Even more difficult, the drama unfolding off the court has most of our attention, as every day we wait for some break in the Kawhi story, some sign or tell that all is right in our sequestered and spoiled corner of sports fandom.

I don’t know when that sign will come, and if it does, that it can save this season.

Something is rotten in San Antonio.

The Spurs finish off the Rodeo Road Trip in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon.

Go Spurs Go.

Depleted Spurs Lose Close Game in Utah

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.

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