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New Year’s Hangover

By Jeff Koch on January 2, 2017.

Season 50, Game 34
San Antonio 112, Atlanta 114 (OT)
27-7, 2nd in the West

The thing I hate most about close losses is the continual second-guessing of every possible moment that might have swung the eventual outcome. (This is particularly true with OT losses, as there are two endings to scrutinize.) It’s easy to imagine that the single point Atlanta earned on the technical (hastily) awarded to Pop was the deciding factor in a game that ended in a tie; but it’s never that simple.

Basketball is the most deterministic of sports, and every action is the result of every single moment that preceded it. So to question any solitary moment necessarily changes everything that possibly could have happened after said moment.

In other words, you add it all up, and sometimes the final shot goes in and out twice before popping out, and sometimes it falls in. Either team could have won the game or lost the game a handful of times before that moment. The Hawks won; the Spurs lost. It was a good game.

Coming back from missing two games with the stomach flu, Kawhi was definitely out of rhythm. That, more than anything, was likely the deciding edge in this game in favor of the Hawks. A “normal” Kawhi in this game, and the Spurs likely win going away. But he just couldn’t quite find his game, and his struggles threw the whole team out of sync just a bit.

On the other side of the ball, Paul Millsap had his way against our defense, pouring in 32 points and collecting 13 rebounds. As Sean Elliott put it so well during the broadcast, he is a SF in the body of a PF, and presents all kind of match-up problems for defenses. (The word is he is on the trading block, and how I would love to see him don the silver and black.)

Of course, the Spurs’ defense can usually withstand one outstanding performance. But two is pushing it. Especially when that second performance is from an unheralded bench player. Tim Hardaway, Jr. put up 29 (29!!!) points on 13 shots in what is probably the best game of his career. That would be like if Simmons put up 29 points on 13 shots. If he did that, the Spurs almost assuredly win. Well, Hardaway, Jr. did it for the Hawks, and they most definitely won.

Hardaway especially hurt us late, when just one stop probably would have sealed the win. But alas, on this night the Spurs could not get the necessary stop nor the necessary rebound to secure the win, and the game slipped away.

It’s easy to wonder about that missed layup in the 1st quarter, or that silly turnover in the 3rd. But this game was lost in an aggregation of failed moments, not any one solitary mistake. The Spurs have been on the right side of this equation so many times this season, it was bound to bite them in the ass eventually.

The Spurs travel home to face the very good Raptors tomorrow night.

Go Spurs Go.