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What we learned from Spurs’ loss to the Trail Blazers

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Oh, to be young again. I used to be able to handle these west coast games on work nights. I was younger, more active, and perhaps most importantly, I lived in San Antonio. Those were the days. My working hours were from 8 am to 5 pm, and I only lived 10 minutes from work, which was in the suburbs. (I lived very strategically going in the opposite direction of rush hour traffic. No US 281 construction for me!)

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Then, in 2020, I made the decision to change my lifestyle by moving to Houston to further my career with the company that has employed me for the past 10 years. The move has paid off in this regard, but overall I’m more tired and feel a couple of years older since making the move. Business hours are now 7-4 hours in bustling downtown Houston, and my commute takes about 40 minutes without any major traffic issues (which is big “if” with those H-town drivers). Suffice it to say, it was an adjustment.

So when Tottenham’s schedule comes around like this week, with FIGASENI completely on the West Coast, it’s my worst nightmare. What used to make me shrug now makes me cringe, so big hat advice goes to all PtR contributors who want to stay up late and cover these games, because it’s a struggle bus for this transplant in Houston at the advanced age of 37. Games like Monday’s loss to the Warriors made me struggle to stay awake the whole time because there was nothing to watch, but last night’s performance against the Trail Blazers was much easier to stay awake.

The fun and exciting version of the Spurs returned and went toe-to-toe with the unlikely leaders in the Western Conference – and for whatever reason the team with the best overall record against them in the league, with the Good Guys only a three-game advantage in the series – on their own home turf, despite being a game Highly complex, and Jeremy Grant and Antwerne Simmons go nuclear from three.

Much of that was thanks to a career night from Jacob Boltel, who scored 31 points on 14-17 point shooting (helping make up Portland’s 18-of-three advantage with the Spurs 20-point advantage in the paint), along with the game. With 14 rebounds and 5 assists. (I do want to say Dan Weiss mentioned during the broadcast that Tim Duncan and someone else – maybe David Robinson and/or Artis Gilmour – are the only big Tottenham men who put up such numbers, but don’t quote that because, again, I was tired, and now not I can find anything back up.)

In the end, this game continued to go the way many have and many will go this season, with Spurs losing late largely due to several mistakes over the course of the season. Transfers are Tottenham’s biggest weakness, and that will likely remain the case for most of the season due to the squad’s youth and lack of ballplayers, but that’s okay. It’s hard to get upset with them watching how much fun they have together and how hard they play, and at least for one rebuilding season that’s good enough for me.

Takeaway

  • What a difference Tre Jones’ presence makes. Since the Spurs lack any kind of point guard behind them in the rotation, the difference in offense is most noticeable when he’s on the field versus off it. While still not exactly an outside threat, his pace, driving ability and dish starts almost every possession is what sets the Spurs’ pace and space/attack apart. When he’s not there, ball movement often stalls, the offense gets stuck, and the bench unit is left scrambling. While his overall fund of minus -0.4 may not quite match an eye test, this is still the second best player in the rotation other than Zack Collins. Jones is not a flashy player or someone who puts up amazing numbers, but he may be the most important and least underrated player for this team as it is currently built.
  • Speaking of a bench unit that lacks a point guard, I love the drive and enthusiasm that Josh Richardson brings, and he was a big part of Spurs’ late-season rush to play last season with his energy and surprisingly accurate three-point shooting. While it wouldn’t be fair to expect him to shoot more than 44% from three as he did in 21 games for Spurs last season, he has been far less efficient so far this season, shooting 35.7%. While that’s just below his career average and still not bad, it feels like a lot of his shots are forced against the flow of the offense, and when it is, he tends to miss. This may be due to the lack of a ball handler with the second unit, so he tries to make something of himself, but there is often a more open player just a pass away. I wouldn’t mind him playing a little less champion ball and instead working to keep the ball moving for second unit.
  • I will never be on the “Trade Poeltl” bandwagon. He means a lot to this team, and his contract is a big deal at this point for adequate compensation. Whether Tottenham should attempt it Re-signing him this summer is another story, but the only thing that would make Poetlt expendable for me is if the Spurs luck in Victor Wimpanyama in the draft. (And even then, they might still be able to start together since Wimpy is such a solid forward and has three-point range.) The good news is that the draft comes before free agency, so the Spurs can wait and see what happens there before they decide if they want to try a replay. Signing Poeltl in free agency, but at least for the rest of this season, he shouldn’t be on the trading block unless an offer comes along that’s too good to pass up.
  • finally, Don’t be that guy. I won’t name names, but you can click on the link to see what I’m talking about. Basically, a San Antonio sports personality tweeted that he didn’t want Jeremy Suchan to shoot a triple-take again. When anyone responded to giving him time to develop, his responses ranged from things along the lines of, “He couldn’t shoot in college so he’ll never learn,” to, “Well, Russell Westbrook never learned to shoot, so why expect Suchan to learn?” What? You’ll throw a slugger like Westbrook to support your point, but isn’t anyone allowed to point out how the Spurs developed players who weren’t great shooters in college, like Kawhi Leonard and Keldon Johnson, into excellent pitchers? Spurs are still one of, if not the best, player development teams in the league, so I don’t know what world we live in and we should drop off Suchan as a shooter after just 14 games. ysh.

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