Half-Spurs endure more pain, ‘necessary evil’
“Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. Blood will be shed … This great city, it will endure. Gotham will survive.”
Darkness has fallen upon a once-proud franchise. Through the depths of despair, broken extremities and one strained hammy, masked men have emerged to take back what rightfully belongs to the champions of the Western Conference; to guide a lost group of heroes back to the peak of power. These silver- and black-clad vigilantes with barely a recognizable face hidden behind a guise of plastic, probably rubber and definitely some elasticity have no clue the fate that may await them without their long-lost leaders, who remain confined to the imprisonment of gigantic sport coats and bad plaid garb draped over the torso like a gigantic picnic blanket.
This was nearly an impossible task for the San Antonio Spurs considering the circumstances. Tim Duncan was resting, Tony Parker hurt his back, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili are in the midst of long injury recoveries, and Boris Diaw ate something capable of disabling even the mightiest of Frenchmen. The Nets were relatively healthy — sans the massive Brook Lopez, who’s lost for the season with a foot problem — and their size and experience were simply too much for the smallish squad from south Texas in a 103-89 Brooklyn victory.
San Antonio competed, though, as it always does when faced with such issues. Nando De Colo, Cory Joseph and Patty Mills darted in and out of screens, found cutters and hit jump shots early on, and Danny Green showed off what has become a serviceable dribble-drive game, relatively speaking. But more setbacks plagued an already shorthanded team, and it was too much to overcome in the throes of Gotham’s bleakness.
“Oh, so you think darkness is your ally? But you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then to me it was only blinding. The shadows betray you because they belong to me.”
The pits of hell mean little to a brotherhood so tested by fire that the flicker of a flame does nothing but add the marks of age and experience to already battle-tested epidermises. These wintertime nightmares are nothing compared to the images that dance from summers past, and through the conflagration a stronger presence will arise as the ice melts and the days grow longer. This is nothing, at least not in the eyes of the previously embattled.
With countless injuries already in tow, things only got worse in Brooklyn. De Colo took a shot from the gangly and blade-like elbow of Andrei Kirilenko, sending him to the ground as a pool of blood dripped into his cupped hands. His nose was broken, but he wasn’t going to rest. Spurs trainer Will Sevening provided a mask for him to wear, made out of what looked like household materials.
He returned to play, and he played well. But he was not to be outdone. His already masked compadre Matt Bonner put his crooked nose in harm’s way again, and the results were not ideal. Shaun Livingston’s shoulder collided with Bonner’s face, right under the protection that extended just above his upper lip, and the Red Mamba suffered another break, this time of a different bone in his nose.
As the injuries mounted and the tables of momentum began to turn, the night was lost, but it meant the Spurs were a day closer to a much cleaner bill of health.
“I broke you. How have you come back?”
There is no turning back now. Regardless of circumstances, this batch of outcasts had a leader whose expectations rarely shift or falter; the mission was clear, and the process was more important than the results. The fight is more crucial than the outcome, because without the battle there is no glory.
Joseph went for a career-high 18 points and four steals, and the Spurs managed to somehow stay alive. The scoring wasn’t quite there, despite some different looks from San Antonio, whose looping dribble-drive motion offense managed to keep the Nets off balance to some degree. And it was all a result of the mastermind that is Gregg Popovich. His system is unbreakable, so long as he has competent basketball players performing his tasks, and it will always give his team a chance against the premiere talents in the NBA.
The fact was, the Nets were just a better team on Thursday. A team stocked full of future Hall-of-Famers and max-contract hustlers wasn’t about to give way to a squad comprised of D-League All-Stars. This wasn’t the Spurs night, and they could take solace in knowing that. At this point, the ‘live to fight another day’ idiom rang true, albeit with a broken-nosed, masked caveat.
“Oh yes, I was wondering what would break first, your spirit or your body?”
San Antonio will be fine. Its collective body may be a bit broken, but after shorthanded, gritty wins over the Kings, Pelicans and Wizards, the mind seems stronger than it has been all season. Sometimes necessary evil is real, and it can be a hell of a learning tool.