In case you missed it, last night, on NBA TV, the San Antonio Spurs, on an eleven game win streak, faced off against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Rose garden and were completely destroyed, losing by forty points. It was a humiliating beat-down of a storied franchise by a struggling but talented young team. Only it wasn't. Because Gregg Popovich, the man many believe is a genius and the best coach in the NBA, threw the game...
The Spurs were on the second night of a back-to-back, the third game in four nights (wins against the Clippers and the Utah Jazz), and the eighth consecutive road game. Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter were both injured in the Clipper game on Saturday night. Ginobili was sent home to San Antonio and Splitter is traveling with the team, wearing a large, expensive suit. But, with an twelve-game winning streak on the line, Greg Popovich made a decision. With a twelve-game winning streak on the line, and with another game on
Wednesday Thursday against the Denver Nuggets, the legendary coach decided eleven was enough.
The Spurs starting lineup was DeJuan Blair, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Richard Jefferson, and someone named Cory Joseph. You'll be forgiven if you don't remember Joseph, a Canadian, and the 29th pick in the 2011 draft, because he logged a whopping ten seconds against the Clips.
I'm trying to decide, was this a brave, bold move by the genius, giving away a game in a tough arena to a struggling team, or was it an awful chicken-hearted decision... to actually and obviously throw a game. After all, the Rose Garden attendees paid big money for their seats, they're expecting to see Tony Parker and Tim Duncan on the court aren't they? Those players are admittedly healthy. Tim's old, sure but Parker's only 29 and played 78 games last year. And what about that winning streak? Does it mean nothing?
To Popovich, to the Spurs, yes, it means nothing. I think Popovich made a great decision. He knows his team better than anyone, he's the rare NBA coach, not worried about his job, and his team has to be weary on the Spurs long "rodeo" road trip. They just won seven games straight on the road and they beat the teams they needed to beat (Memphis, Philly, and the Clips) on alien floors. Portland? A tough arena but a struggling team, who might not make the playoffs at all. They simply are not in the Spurs post-season plans. And what do the Trail Blazers get to take away from this? Nothing. They didn't beat the Spurs, they beat a bunch of guys wearing Spurs jerseys. Pop said to himself: "Let the gods have this one, and lets see what we can do against a badly injured Nuggets team in two days."
As Clippers fan, Pop's decision probably has some empirical meaning, after all he took the Clips seriously enough to let Tony Parker play 45 minutes on Saturday and Timay 40. Which, wearing our optimism hats for a moment, can only be construed as a good thing... right?
If you're interested in car wrecks: the box.