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On Moral Victories

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Photo Credit: University of Liverpool via Flickr

Many Mondays ago—well, just two really— the Los Angeles Clippers faced off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. As teams in this league are wont to do, they played a second time. More on this later. The buzzer sounded Monday, signalling the fate of the two squads. By some magnificent stroke of luck and a smidgen of dexterity, the Clippers survived.

Minnesota relented in the second half, tying the game six times, but their endeavor went fruitless. By game’s end, the Clippers execution was hampered with missteps whilst Minnesota did right by the game plan— they just weren’t hitting shots. In the end, the Clippers came out alive because Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic couldn’t connect on crucial tip-ins as the game clock winded down. Pekovic is scoring at a rate of 58 percent around the rim and Love edges him out at 62. This phenomenon likely won’t repeat itself. More troubling, though, is Love’s propensity for swiping offensive boards intersecting with the Clippers shoddy rebounding; the Clippers’ position, allowing the fates to decide with the numbers against them, is wholy repeatable.

Rumblings that the Wolves loss was a ‘good loss’, a high-character loss, or what have you, started appearing on Twitter. See, the Clippers won but they didn’t deserve it. As all things Internet go, an ensuing counter-argument developed: In essence, the team that outscores the other team is the winner. No exceptions.

It’s an argument that’s buoyed by force of repetition. I wasn’t near a gym last night but I can guarantee this. The words “I’m just glad we won the game, that’s all that matters” escaped the mouths of at least one player in every NBA arena. Locker rooms are trite with such platitudes. In reality, basketball is a complex game with numerous factors contributing to each win and loss. It’s a dim theory that two numbers— the final scores of the competing teams— can absolutely define 48 intricate minutes. Yes, attaching words like “moral” and “high-character” to losses and victories set in stone by final scores feels out of bounds by nature. But it’s should be right in the backyard of a community so steadfastly dedicated to the “process over results” mantra.

It’s simple, really. Not losing and winning are two separate things.

When the Timberwolves and Clippers played again, another game came down to the wire. Minnesota was resilient again, prepared to deliver rough justice for a +1 in the win column that slipped through their padded paws. They cut L.A.’s lead to one, at which point Chris Paul put on a merciless and prolific show. He was articulate beyond reason— blasé for him, at this point— and scored 16 of the Clippers’ final 21 points in less than four minutes. See, I don’t have the exact metrics but… he did alright.

So a week and a half later, the result was the same. No complaints this time, though, that the Clippers didn’t deserve to win. Why, you ask? Because as heady as Paul’s performance was, the process can be replenished. Especially in regards to this: L.A. elected to go small with their bench, inserting Reggie Bullock for Byron Mullens and their second quarter wasn’t such a tire fire.

Look: come playoff time, it won’t matter if the Clippers win 58 or 60 games. What’s of importance is whether the Clippers learn to minimize offensive rebounds or whether the Wolves’ hedge-deprived defense can respond to ball-handlers with mid range games not worth reckoning with. The same goes for every other team with strong playoff aspirations.

In a baser sense, a good win just feels better. Plain and simple. There’s a pugilistic quality in throwing a knockout punch rather than hoping the other guy misses; in winning with your own gloves, not that of a random three-point outburst that you know doesn’t belong to you. In sports, feelings aren’t often associated with facts. But this is instinct backed by an argument.

If you delete the details, you get the facts. But the facts— and the future—  are dependent on details.

Seerat Sohi

Seerat Sohi (@DamianTrillard) watches NBA basketball from the confines in her home in Edmonton, a small town on the outskirts of Siberia, because the idea of running around on ice always made her feel nervous. She oscillates between loving and hating the Bulls, depending on the amount of minutes Jimmy Butler plays on a given day. She also writes for Clipperblog (www.clipperblog.com) and Rufus On Fire (www.rufusonfire.com). Her request for the domain name DidSeeratSohiSleepLastNight.com was recently rejected, but that won't deter any future attempts.