Tony Dejak/AP Photo
Trace Ronning writes:
No Pau, no Tony, no Timmy? NO PROBLEM. San Antonio traveled into enemy territory and took down the reigning NBA champs in overtime on Saturday night behind Kawhi Leonard’s career-high 41 points.
I’ll get to my 3 key takeaways in a second, but first I want to give a bonus key to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for his session with the media before the game. Whether or not you agree with President Trump’s politics/philosophy/general being, you have to recognize that when one of the most caring and thoughtful men in the NBA is concerned about something, it’s worth arming yourself with the knowledge to fight whatever fight it is you need to fight. I highly recommend taking a listen to Pop’s thoughts if you haven’t heard them already.
And for what it’s worth, I want the Spurs to win the championship this year – obviously – almost just to see if they even visit the White House. Can they just go kick it with Obama at his house instead?
Back to basketball, here’s what I took away from the Spurs’ win over Cleveland.
Kawhi ain’t playing around out here
Pardon me while I type through my extremely biased keyboard over here, but how can you argue that any single other player in the NBA is more valuable to his team than Kawhi is to the Spurs? The man scored 41 points, shot 50%, made 100% of his free throws and played 46 minutes, much of which was spent guarding Basketball Hercules (LeBron James) on the road.
Yes, he lost a ton of steam at the end of regulation when all San Antonio needed to do was make like, shit, ONE, of their shots in the last 3 minutes to avoid overtime. He was 0-5 in the final 8 minutes of regulation, but without him are they even in the game at this point? Hell no.
Oh, he also scored 6 of San Antonio’s 11 OT points, so yeah he’s pretty vital to this team’s success.
David Lee is awesome and I wish we acquired him eight years ago
Lee moved into the starting lineup because Kyle Anderson broke Pau Gasol’s finger a few nights ago. No big deal, he just came in here and dropped a casual points/rebounds double-double on the Cavaliers and hustled his undersized ass off in the process. I learned that David Lee can dunk on Saturday night. I also learned that he has the heart of a damn warrior (no pun intended) and it reminded me of something.
Remember how in 2014 all of a sudden Aron Baynes was starting in the NBA Finals and all that happened was that San Antonio tore Miami’s heart out and fed it to a gaggle of bloodthirsty demon sharks? Can’t you see David Lee being the key to a Finals run this summer? Do you have any idea how awesome it’s going to be when Lee is the secret weapon that helps the Spurs to beat the Warriors in five games this postseason? JUST YOU WATCH.
Go for the jugular for once, sheesh
With 2:46 to go, LaMarcus Aldridge (who I yelled at all night, even though he apparently finished with a double-double) dunked home an errant Danny Green 3-ball to give the Spurs a 107-101 edge. This game had NO business going into overtime, but check out the Spurs’ possession log after that Aldridge dunk:
- Danny Green misses a 24-foot three point jumper
- Patty Mills bad pass out-of-bounds
- Kawhi misses a two point shot
- Kawhi misses a two point shot
- Kawhi misses a two point shot
Was Kawhi exhausted? Probably, man. Probably. But I hate seeing the Spurs do this to themselves.
The Spurs get another shot at a top 5 team on Tuesday in Toronto, let’s hope they bring their killer instinct with them for that contest. (Editor’s note: they did!) Let’s kick it over to Stephen for his key takeaways!
Stephen Hale writes:
Oh sweet honey Dejounte. This is kid is a treat. He is the entire headache and aspirin pill all rolled into one. He clearly has talent. But at the end of the day, he’s a rookie and it shows.
One particular play stood out: he walked into a trap and got picked clean which led to a Tristan Thompson dunk, a Spurs timeout and a not-happy-face from the old guy with the beard. But those types of play have to happen in January of his year. Let’s not underestimate how valuable this game was, Honey.
Big minutes against Bron-Bron on prime time TV and he certainly played basketball tonight. He was aggressive, assertive and decisive. He wasn’t shy and he proved that the D-League actually has a purpose after all.
At 6’5″ and 170 pounds, he definitely can afford to eat a few Whataburgers, but man is he quick. He has, like four elbows and that floater is eerily similar to that of a rookie from France the Spurs had almost two decades ago. I’m not saying Murray is the next Tony Parker, but he definitely isn’t Jacque Vaughn. I’m on the Honey Dejounte Bandwagon.
The Spurs have developed a disgusting trend this year and it’s driving me bananas
In no particular order, the Spurs have been dishing out about 18 really good minutes of basketball, 12 minutes of average basketball, 10 minutes of really bad basketball and 8 minutes of “oh snap-we better not lose or Pop is going to be mad” basketball.
They continue to squander leads and let teams get back in the games that should turn into easy wins. I don’t know what causes them to let off the gas, but I hope they fix it and soon. Granted, this is the NBA, where any team can beat you on any given night, but more often than not, the Spurs find themselves in a Tale of Two Halves and that’s not a good trend as we near the second half of the season.
Teams will make runs, but often times the teams that win are the ones that maintain a run, rather than surrender one. The identify of this group is starting to solidify. It will do one of two things: it will either unify this concoction of misfits and has beens, or will expose the weak links in the chain. Now is the time when we see who is who. January and February is when the tweaks start to become finalized and that rotation begins to shorten, ever so slightly.
Pop and LeBron
So rumor is, LeBron wants to grace the world with his Olympic presence and play for Coach Pop. I struggle to see if this is a compliment or an insult. It’s no secret that Pop is the greatest coach in the League and quite possibly of all time, save Red Auerbauch. And LeBron will go down as at least a top 100 player all time. Ok. Fine. Top 20.
But Bron-Bron has to be wondering “what if,” right? I mean, look at the all the other greats. Jordan, Kobe and Shaq all had Phil. Magic had Riley. Russell and Cousy had Red. Dream has Rudy T. Timmy had Pop. LeBron has had Coach Spo and an assistant who stabbed the head coach in the back and was also stepped over by Allen Iverson.
LeBron has won by his own efforts. He never had a coach make it easy on him. He never had a system to flourish in. He never had a coach that was even smarter than him. Pop represents the white rabbit. He might be the only person who has LeBron’s ear. He’s the only coach who has the recipe to stop him: look into the future and trade your favorite young point guard for a guy who is really long, really smart, a quiet defender, and teach him how to shoot. That’s how you beat LeBron.
Popovich is notorious for eating LeBrons lunch and “popping” the bag. He’s pretty much the only person who can bully him. And when this big mammoth of a small forward finds himself in an odd, horrifyingly vulnerable state of being with this opposing coach, what does he get from him? Respect. Respect that his own coaches haven’t or don’t give him. I can see why he loves Pop.
Do people say that about Phil Jackson, or Pat Riley, or Rudy T? No. They don’t. Pop isn’t great because his players love him and want to play for him. Pop is great because his opponents do. We will never see LeBron in a Spurs uniform. We will never have the city he wants to play for. And we won’t ever have the salary space to sign him.
But we will always have the coach he wants.
And having something he wants that he can’t have, well, that’s enough for me.