Yep, I’m going there. Yes, we are dog tired. Yes, it’s early in the season. Yes, we are missing Kawhi and Jack. Yes, it is only two games. Yes, they were pretty close games. Yes, they were both on the road.
Yes, the sky (might) be falling.
The problem and what has me worried is that these last two games felt just like the games against the Thunder when we went south. In the Jazz game, it was blowing a fourth quarter lead with poor execution. Against the Blazers, it was the inability to get stops as the opponent made 2-pt shot after 2-pt shot.
Do you remember in last year’s playoffs how our bench shortened, a lot, because Pop couldn’t get positive plays out of them? How they started to miss shots, blow defensive assignments, and not contribute? Yeah, me too.
Will A Big Please Step Up
Boris, Bonner, and Blair have been somewhere between horrible and terrible in these two games. (Tiago, for what it is worth, is just getting better and better so I’m happy with that.) Just like in the Thunder series, and the playoffs in general, our non-Duncan bigs are disappearing and not making any plays for us. No defense. No steals. No blocks. No rebounds. No loose balls. No hustle plays. Etc. They just disappear, especially late in games.
Tim Duncan, as always, is playing great. He needs some help.
Where Art Thou Manu Ginobili?
Manu has a moment of brilliance here and there, but he generally looks somewhere between rusty and washed up. I’m not sure which.
Tony played a pretty solid game. Not great, mind you, as he couldn’t hang with Lillard, but solid. He needs Manu to help him out. Or…
Hello Danny Green and Gary Neal
Danny Green: Missed assignments. Turnovers. Five points. Sound familiar?
Gary Neal: 2-10 FG, bad turnovers, slowed offense. Sound familiar?
Our non-TPandManu back court guys need to find ways to make plays. In every game. Not just in games when they are feeling it and not just in games where we are cruising past an opponent. But, in games where we are struggling. They need to wrench something good out of themselves.
All Those Other Bench Smalls
Oh wait. There really aren’t all that many smalls after these guys. It just feels like we should have them, but Kawhi and Jack are hurt. Patty Mills does make shots and bring energy. He did that again against the Blazers. But, I also get the vibe that Pop is far from convinced that he is Tony’s everyday back up.
Same with Nando. Pop kicked Nando to the bench when his guy cut baseline for a easy layup when Nando lost track of him. Sound familiar?
We aren’t seeing much of Cory Joseph. It’s understandable. But, I’m holding out hope that he’s our future Tony back up. Not for this season, but next.
Defense In The Fourth
The Blazers shot 47% in the 4th and had 4 turnovers (two of which were offensive fouls on Aldridge). Whenever we needed a stop, they hit a shot. Each and every time. Whether it was a Hickson runner, a Lillard pull up, or a Lillard drive, they got what they needed when they needed it. Sure, some of the shots seemed improbable. But that’s what I thought about the Thunder too. I think our defense is still a good distance from where it needs to be.
The Sky Isn’t Really Falling
It’s just the same shade of gray that it was when the season started. We are a good team. We will have a great record at the end of the year. We will cruise into the second round of the playoffs.
It’s just that we have the same warts. I think these two losses are great for us. Pop will ease us through these next three games — the outcomes really don’t matter — and then tell the guys to put their heads down and keep working to get better. In particular, the defense. When Kawhi and Jack get back, it helps. Pop, however, will be able to point to these two games and say, “See. We aren’t where we need to be. We can’t get stops when we need them.”
Pop will also know that he needs to continue to develop and look for the guys who will give him something in the playoffs. These tough road games where we are tired are a lot like playoff games in a way. You win because you overcome. Playing tired against the Blazers in Portland is a LOT like playing at Oklahoma City or at the Clippers in May. You’ve got your hands full with a team that has more energy. You have to be focused. You have to execute. You have to have guys who make plays.
Pop is still searching.