Before the Spurs preseason finale, a 111-86 laugher over the Houston Rockets, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich explained how San Antonio's offense will have to adjust for the additions of LaMarcus Aldridge and David West and the subtraction of Marco Belinelli and --ostensibly-- Matt Bonner from the rotation.
"If we're not going to make as many threes we better make more twos," he said. "To try and equal teams like Golden State and Houston, I think Houston's averaging, what, 36 threes a game, that's their deal, they're sticking to their paradigm, and they're good at it. They shoot more than anybody, they make more than anybody... and we can't emulate that, we have to do it a different way. We don't have that kind of shooting corps right now, so the twos better go down.
"And maybe we want to stop some threes defensively," he added.
So naturally the Spurs, who came into the game 29th in the preseason in three-point attempts (19.6 per game) and 25th in three-point percentage (.306), attempted just two fewer bombs than the carefree chuck-a-palooza Rockets, 24 to their 26, and hit nearly half of them in the blowout win.
We're all well-conditioned to Danny Green's streakiness by now. Dude's nicknamed "Icy-Hot" for a reason and it's not for some locker room hi-jinks involving jockstraps. Green was frigid during the preseason, shooting 36.4 percent overall and 15.4 from downtown, having made just 2-of-13. He tripled that output in the first half against the Rockets, canning all six he tried, and I don't believe any even grazed the rim on the way through.
We don't ordinarily think of the Rox as any kind of defensive juggernaut, but they're usually better than this. It did not require much passing wizardry to spring Green. Often one or two passes and maybe one back screen was all that was required. Kawhi Leonard had one what I would term "next level" feed to him in the first quarter, where he bypassed the next man in the chain in Tony Parker stationed nearby on the wing and instead found Green wide open on the opposite wing two rotations ahead of the defense. Aside from that though a simple side pick-and-roll with Parker or a kick-out pass from LaMarcus Aldridge out of a double-team in the post was enough to do the trick.
The Rockets were extremely lazy and inattentive in their rotations, a team-wide James Harden YouTube compilation for 48 minutes. It helped the Spurs that both Dwight Howard and top backup big Donatas Motiejunas were out. Second-year center Clint Capela is still adjusting to being a part of the rotation and he's still very raw and foul prone, picking up five of them --mostly on Aldridge-- in 12:34.
"They have got to be able to call coverages," a disgusted Kevin McHale said of his bigs. "The guys [in front of] them cannot see. They're guarding the ball. You don't know what's happening behind you. Bigs coming up [have] got to call coverages. We just did a really poor job tonight."
Aldridge, who it's a safe guess felt the same way about his shooting during Tuesday's loss to Phoenix as McHale did about his team's defense, showed that the 90 minutes he put in with Ime Uduka hoisting jumpers in the empty gym was put to good use. He was a perfect 6-for-6 in the first half, with 17 points overall.
The Spurs scored 58 at half and would've had more if Leonard could've made a couple of wide open threes from the corner, but they only led by three thanks to porous defense of their own. They didn't guard the three particularly well, allowed too many offensive boards and got burned in transition for layups on just about every one of their six first half turnovers, with Houston taking a 15-to-2 edge in fast break points to intermission.
And then... everything just stopped for the Rockets. They couldn't make a thing in the second half, finishing 10-of-36 (27.8 percent) from the field and 2-of-12 from three. A few were contested but the majority were not. They also missed a few bunnies at the rim. A bench that had been mostly invisible for the Spurs in the first half found major traction, with a lineup of Tim Duncan and four subs. Manu Ginobili had a layup and four dimes in that stretch, including this gorgeous no-look number to Timmeh...
Manu. https://t.co/jU0qKoQBiX— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) October 24, 2015
while Kyle Anderson chipped in with a couple jumpers.
Anderson also played the entire final quarter, as did Boban Marjanovic, already a crowd favorite. The Serbian behemoth was quite active in that time with 10 points, 6 boards and 2 assists while also deterring a couple of Rockets shots on the other end. He easily put back a couple of Spurs bricks and scored on a couple of short rolls to the rim as well off the catch. His free-throw stroke looked pure. The only low-lights were his refusal to back down and try to score on 6'8, 240-pound Montrezl Harrell in the post and the one time he got rim checked on a dunk attempt.
All in all, it was a good night for everybody except poor Reggie Williams I guess.
The Spurs have waived guard Reggie Williams, source tells Yahoo. For 3rd straight year, Rasual Butler makes contending team on nonguarantee.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 24, 2015
This probably doesn't come as a shock. Butler always had a leg up on the competition and there were reports that he turned down an offer from the Pelicans to sign with San Antonio, so he would've had to really look terrible to not win the job given his pedigree as a three-point shooter on a team lacking same. Butler has made 36.3 of his three-point tries over his career and hit 38.7 percent last season for Washington.
It remains to be seen if he's the real "15th man" or it's Jonathon Simmons, who still has plenty of D-League eligibility. It's all semantics, mostly. The only news that really matters is that despite their 2-4 record the Spurs leave preseason winners because nobody got hurt.
It tips off for real next Wednesday at Oklahoma City.