I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I was not able to catch any of the first four Spurs preseason games outside of some highlights on Twitter and other parts of the internet, partly because it was all but impossible to catch the games,and partly because I was enjoying some much needed time in the middle of nowhere for their first home contest. So I was pretty excited to watch this contest.
The Spurs had their entire roster active except for LaMarcus Aldridge, who was in Austin being inducted into the University of Texas' Hall of Honor which is thankfully something that won't happen again this season. SA definitely missed their second best player on both ends of the floor, as the Silver and Black struggled to put the ball through the hoop and to keep it out on their own end.
San Antonio's field goal percentage hovered around 38% for most of the game before what I guess you could call garbage time, while Miami hit half of their shots for the contest. Obviously, it's tough to win that way and at one point the Heat held a commanding 23-point lead.
2015-16 NBA MVP runner-up, Kawhi Leonard, was fairly quiet (kind of strange in a game where he shared the team-high point total of 11 with Dewayne Dedmon) besides missing eight of his nine field goal attempts (redeeming stat: going 8-of-8 from the line!) and turning it over five times. While I wouldn't put much into his poor shooting night in a game that doesn't count, it sure would have been nice to see the new Spurs leader impact the game in a more visceral way. If you didn't know he was Kawhi, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to have imagined him as one of the five guys vying for the the last roster spot on the team.
Alright, that's definitely overstating it, he was his usual great self on defense and was probably better on offense than his shooting line suggested. I just wanted to see him cram it, or at least shimmy and knock down tough baseline fadeaways. One preseason game was enough, I'm ready for the real thing.
Pau Gasol, the highly skilled and game savvy 36-year old, is going to be a good fit for the Spurs. It's completely unfair to compare him to Tim Duncan, after all, comparison is the thief of joy, so I'm not going to do that. Early on Tony Parker and Pau ran a nice pick-and-pop at the elbow and Pau looked smooth and comfortable sinking a 15-footer for the Spurs' first points of the game. It's going to be a work in progress as the season starts with so many new bodies on the team this year, but I'd bet on Pau being a fine pickup for San Antonio. The Spaniard finished 5-of-9 from the floor and grabbed five boards in his 18 minutes.
Gregg Popovich's first substitutions of the contest were David Lee, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili, who replaced Kyle Anderson (Slo-Mo got the starting nod in place of Aldridge), Tony Parker and Danny Green, respectively. Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons for Pau and Kawhi were the next substitutions for the Silver and Black.
Ginobili missed his first couple of attempts and finished 1-of-5 for the night but David Lee looked good in his early minutes, notching a putback and then providing a great feed to Dedmon on a fastbreak. Though Lee finished a game-low minus-19 in his 14 minutes, he looks to be in great shape and ready to contribute to the team.
Dewayne Dedmon was fairly impressive, aside from his 3-for-7 showing at the charity stripe, hitting four of his six field goal attempts and showing off his athleticism on defense. He was also noticeably vocal on the defensive end of the floor, perhaps heeding some of Tim Duncan's offseason advice. I'm definitely looking forward to watching the big man this season.
In all the bench unit didn't look so hot in this one, but incorporating a slew of new bigs is going to take time for sure. The Heat bench outscored the Spurs bench 29-19 in the first half.
If not for some fine shooting from the free throw line, 16-of-17 in the first half, the Spurs would have been in a tougher spot after the first couple of quarters. As it stood, the good guys trailed the Heat by seven, 55-48, being held to just 38% from the field for the half.
Popovich and Co. opted to start David Lee in the second half in place of Slo-Mo for a more traditional look. Unfortunately that didn't work out for the Spurs who fell into an even bigger hole against Miami. It's hard to really take anything away without Aldridge on the floor, but this season will probably be the biggest work-in-progress Spurs fans have seen in...well, I'd guess that the majority of fans haven't seen a roster shake up like this while paying attention to the team. That said, this is the preseason and I expect the Spurs to be among the league's best teams, even early on.
The fighting-for-the-end-of-roster guys, Joel Anthony, Nicolas Laprovittola and Bryn Forbes along with already rostered Livio Jean-Charles and Jonathon Simmons made the final score closer than the game was in the final five minutes of the game
For the Heat, Dion Waiters had a good night, Justise Winslow is going to be a good NBA player and Tyler and James Johnson were great off of the bench for Miami. Tyler Johnson scored a game-high 17 for the Heat to go with his four boards, five helpers and a steal and block while James Johnson kicked in 15 points and gave the consistent effort on both ends that he is known for.
Eric Spoelstra is a fine coach and it wouldn't be surprising if the Heat surpassed Vegas' 35 game win total. After the Cavaliers and Boston and Toronto, it's kind of a logjam out East. Indy and Detroit look like good bets to vie for homecourt in the first round, but they have questions to answer as well and after that it seems pretty wide open. Perhaps it's a stretch to pencil the Heat into the playoffs, but they'll almost certainly be in the playoff mix if they stay healthy.
Davis Bertans hit three of his eight shots but looks to be a nice pickup for the Silver and Black. He's big, can shoot and might even be a plus on the defensive end.
Let's end this on a positive note, featuring our beloved Argentine and new big, Dedmon.
Manu with the alley. Dewayne with the oop.— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 15, 2016
Those fans in the San Antonio area can check out the free-admission, open scrimmage that the Spurs will host on Tuesday the 18th at 7 pm. Doors will open at 6:30 pm to the general public.
San Antonio has one more preseason game, a home contest on Friday the 21st against the Houston Rockets, before the games start to count. The NBA didn't mess around this season, pairing the Spurs and Warriors at Oracle Arena on opening night (Tuesday Oct. 25) after the Cavs host the Knickers. We're almost there!