I had this idea to write an article where I’d kick it off by saying something like “Well guys I don’t know how to break it to you but it sure doesn’t look like the San Antonio Spurs are going to be doing much winning this year” and then go on to talk about how it’s possible to still find some joy over the course of the season.
Then San Antonio had to go on and win four games in a row against teams with postseason potential, washing us in an abundance of joy that required no soul-searching. I liked most of what I saw during the string of wins, and I liked some things about the loss at Phoenix that ended the streak, too.
I can’t say I liked everything, though. Some of the things I saw encouraged me to yell “gah” at my television. I would now like to tell you about those things, the cool and the not so cool if you will.
Cool thing #1
The continued growth of Dejounte Murray
I was part of the lobbying firm that advocated for packaging Murray in a trade package for Ben Simmons this Summer. Despite not knowing how exactly that would have played out, I no longer believe that would have been the right trade to make. And while I’m concerned that the Spurs next championship window won’t open during Murray’s prime years, it’s an absolute delight to cheer for him and see his growth.
Especially if you enjoy steals and fast-break scores as much as I do.
It’s fair to wonder, as some have if Murray’s numbers are a result of being the most reliable guy on a team lacking consistency. It’s also fair to tell those people to shut up and enjoy watching Dejounte Murray play basketball.
Not so cool thing #1
Still chasing the elusive “complete” game
Look, if you told me that for the rest of the season, the Spurs would win four of every five games they played as long as I didn’t ask any questions about it, I would sew my mouth shut on the spot.
But you can’t tell me that, so I’m gonna nitpick a few things from those games. San Antonio started out HOT in each game of the win streak, and in the Phoenix game as well. Then they let the opponent back in. Boston only led for 6:33 of that game, but that whole six and a half minutes was in the fourth quarter. It took some clutch baskets from Murray and Derrick White to seal the deal. Which is great! But it didn’t have to come to that.
If you want to see the 2014 Spurs team roll in their collective grave, go back and watch the 3rd quarter of the Blazers game for a clinic on how NOT to pass the basketball. Actually, don’t do that to yourself, there are a million better ways to spend that ~20 mins of your life. The reason that game still ended in a blowout is because Portland couldn’t do a single thing right in that third quarter either.
On to Golden State. The Warriors only led for 2:50, much of it early in the first quarter. But they also took a lead with 2:39 left in the game, after trailing by 19 with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter. Not ideal! But the Spurs, again, thanks to some late-game White and Murray heroics, staved off Golden State and won.
We will take the wins, yes absolutely we will. But if we could ask for more, it would be to finish the opposition Mortal Kombat style.
Cool thing #2
Hello Derrick White
Welcome back to the club, my dude. White wasn’t bad last year, it’s just that he didn’t play half of the season due to injuries. (The club was 18-18 in games White played, FWIW) The dude is almost always useful to have on the floor, if for no other reason than that White would take a charge from like, Optimus Prime, if it meant denying him a bucket. But as charming as I find his tenacity and willingness to take a hit for the greater good, it’s much more satisfying to see White excel offensively for me.
Here’s to hoping he’s shaken off all the rust that remained from his injury-plagued 20-21 season because White is going to need to keep it going if the club wants to get back to its winning ways.
Not so cool thing #2
Primo in Austin
I’m not here to do any hand-wringing over the merits of getting young guys minutes wherever minutes can be had. For a young guy like Primo, who only played in 30 college games in his year at Alabama, simply playing basketball as much as possible is probably a good thing.
It was also a good thing that he got called into action in the second quarter of a competitive game versus Phoenix and responded by notching four blocks and three steals in nearly 18 minutes of playing time. This, of course, came in a game where Devin Vassell was unavailable, and while it’s nice to see Primo making the most of the opportunity, but it’s important to note that flashes are not indicative of a trend (Hello, Lonnie Walker IV Houston game). I would expect to see Primo sent back to Austin when Vassell returns, where the rookie will see more playing time and more scoring opportunities.
There will come a point where playing basketball against sub-par talent is less useful for Primo, and if his long-range shot flirts with 40% in the G-League, you’ve got to wonder when he’ll be called up to San Antonio for good.
Cool thing #3
It is unsurprising to me that the Spurs strung together some wins after getting Jakob Poeltl healthy. Drew Eubanks slid back into his reserve role, and the team started rolling. I also want to give a shout out here to Thaddeus Young, who hasn’t had the most impressive box scores during the win streak. I don’t really know how to describe what he’s doing on the court, but I feel like his veteran presence has been steady and calming when he’s out there.
It’s also just nice to know he’s not just going to sit on the bench of maybe one day get traded or maybe one day get waived. If he’s going to be on the team, I’d prefer to see him play some basketball.
Lastly, I know he’s not really a “big,” but I don’t know where else to put this so I just want to say that I really enjoy having Doug McDermott back in the starting lineup.
Not so cool thing #3
I don’t know who THE dude is on this team
This is related to #1, in that what I’m feeling meh about here is that during those scoring lulls, the Spurs are lacking someone able to put the team on their back. When the Spurs were outscored by 10 points in the second quarter vs. Phoenix, White shot 1-5 (0-4 from deep) and they weren’t all great shot choices. Murray only took two shots the whole quarter and Keldon Johnson went 0-4 while the Suns climbed back and took a lead into halftime.
The third quarter was more of the same, though Derrick stopped forcing the issue as much. If Murray and/or White are going to be the clutch guys, I’d like to see them do it in these situations. The late-game daggers are swell, but it’s impossible to underrate how important it is to have players who can break up a dry spell and get the team back into a game before it’s too late. Can White or Murray be that kind of dude?
Alright, that’s all I’ve got for this winning streak. Let’s do it again after the Spurs win 12 straight (thanks for nothing, Knicks) to close out 2021!