Consider what the San Antonio Spurs were facing going into their game on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder given that they're playing again on Monday.
They played without Kawhi Leonard (still out, almost back), LaMarcus Aldridge (rest), Tony Parker (scheduled rest after return from injury), and Manu Ginobili (rest). Then, after the first half, Pop rested Danny Green, Patty Mills, and Pau Gasol.
So these are the only players that the Spurs had available in the second half of a road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder: Kyle Anderson, Joffrey Lauvergne, Dejounte Murray, Brandon Paul, Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, and Derrick White.
Young and small.
Oh, by the way. Anderson left the game late in the 3rd quarter and then Lauvernge dislocated his finger early in the 4th quarter and later fouled out after playing just a few minutes in the final frame.
So there were only five players that Gregg Popovich made available in the 4th quarter: Murray, Paul, Bertans, Forbes, and White.
Total years of experience currently on the floor:— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) December 4, 2017
Spurs - 3 (3 sophomores, 2 rookies)
Thunder - 37
Four guards and one forward. Small and smaller.
They all had to play and we wonder what Pop would've done if another player got injured or fouled out because he was determined to rest literally everyone else on the roster.
Somehow... SOMEHOW this Spurs team hung with the Thunder throughout the game. Oklahoma City only pushed their lead to double digits a few times before the Spurs pushed right back and closed the gap. It seemed like an impossibility that midway through the 4th quarter the Spurs actually had the lead and were going back and forth in OKC.
This goes down as a loss in the record books and there probably weren't too many people watching on an NFL Sunday that also coincided with selection Sunday for college football bowl games. But this is the type of game you should appreciate as a Spurs fan.
There's no reason that the Spurs' four guards and small forward should be able to hang in the 4th quarter against a squad sporting Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. But that's exactly what they did.
Despite being tired (Murray logged 39 minutes while Paul and Forbes each played 33) and forced to play in a dynamic that the Spurs rarely prepare for (did I mention that there were four guards and small forward on the court), the Spurs made it work and nearly won the game.
They got bullied on the boards and were gassed playing against starters conditioned to log heavier minutes but they still held the home team to just 36 points in the second half and just 14 points in the 4th quarter.
And yet, Dejounte Murray played a great game for a second-year point guard: double-double with five assists.
Davis Bertans became just the second Spurs player ever to record at least four three-pointers and at least five blocks in the same game.
And yes, there were mistakes that were made late that cost the Spurs the game but look at what the players on the floor had to work with. Consider how they had to try to match up. Remember that they were on the road.
It was so much fun watching the Spurs bench. All those starters, All-Stars, and Hall of Famers were jumping out of their seats and waving their towels with every bucket and every stop.
The bench was incredulous when the guys on the floor couldn't get a foul call because they're young and they're not going to get the benefit of the doubt on the road against all those veterans.
It would've been a great story if the Spurs had won. But if you're a Spurs fan, this game more than any other should prove that when Kawhi Leonard finally returns to the lineup and Tony Parker is back to full speed... the Spurs are going to be a very dangerous team. And the Western Conference should be on notice when the pieces are put in place for that to happen.