When it’s a grind-it-out game, the Spurs usually win. They expect to win.
But Monday night the Clippers went into San Antonio, had an off night from their leading scorer (Jamal Crawford), had banged up starters, got into a defensive struggle and won. The Clippers ground down the Spurs, played good defense and made the big shots late. They out-Spurred the Spurs.
And Gregg Popovich didn’t like it. Not one bit.
“Of all of our games, this is in the soft category,” he said calmly. “We never had five guys that competed hard enough to win the basketball game, the Clippers took it with their aggressiveness and toughness, both mentally and physically. And I thought for a portion of that game we were an embarrassment. So we’ve got to look at that and look at the film and make sure everybody understands that this is a game that has to be played with competitiveness for 48 minutes. And that’s the bottom line.”
Losing to the Clippers is no embarrassment — they are playing as well as anyone in the NBA so far this season. They always had offensive firepower, but now they are defending and that should scare the other top teams in the West.
And Popovich knows what he’s doing here, he’s playing a game. He says this in the media to light a fire under his team when he thinks they are losing focus. The same way Phil Jackson and countless other smart coaches have done.
The Spurs are still 8-3 on the season, they are still executing, they are still near the top of the West. But sometimes they need jolt to keep going, so Popovich went to the media whip. And we’re happy to do our part and help out.