In what was clearly a let-down performance after Monday night’s thriller in Los Angeles, the Spurs struggled to put up points against the Pacers. Even the team’s leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, who was averaging 29.3 points per game heading into this contest, had difficulty getting it going. He didn’t find the bottom of the net until there was less than 5 minutes left in the 1st half. But the times he scored from then on: sublime.
That first basket was the beginning of mini-flurry of activity from DeMar. He scored 8 points, grabbed a rebound, and had an assist in those last 5 minutes of the half. Even then, though, the points didn’t come easy. The Indiana defense made the Spurs work for everything, and that forced DeMar deeper into his bag of tricks as the night wore on.
With a little less than 3 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter, DeMar missed an easy floater. After Patty tipped the ball to LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar began to cut towards the paint from the top of the key. LaMarcus hit him just inside the 3-point line, and DeMar Eurostepped right by Myles Turner into a point-blank lefty layup.
One minute later, DeMar was bringing the ball up court and saw another opportunity.
He uses just enough of an inside-out dribble to get Bojan Bogdanovic to drop his outside foot and turn his hips away from the paint. That gives DeMar the room he needs to spin into the center of the paint for a floater. Bogdanovic recovers and does a good job of contesting, so DeMar hits the floater with his left hand, because that’s a thing people can do, apparently.
Then, with 4 minutes to go in the 3rd, after Victor Oladipo cut off his initial attempt at penetration, DeMar exploited the tiniest of windows to get to the rim.
DeMar takes one hard dribble to the right to set Oladipo up for the spin move back to the baseline. That gets Oladipo onto his right hip and gives him a path to the rim, but Myles Turner is in good help position. Fortunately for DeMar, Turner left just enough of a crack between him and Oladipo for a 6’7” human being to slide through. DeMar does just that, and still has the balance and strength off one leg to get the ball up on the glass over both Turner and Thaddeus Young.
Watching DeMar on Wednesday night got me thinking more about an article from Mike Prada that came out yesterday on how narrow our definition of “athleticism” is when it comes to NBA players. His focal point is the conversation around whether Luka Doncic will be successful in the league, and how we frame the conversation around his strengths and weaknesses. It’s a great read, and you should check it out.
Much of what he has to say could also apply to DeMar. It’s not his explosive “first step” or incredible leaping ability that get him points. Every step can be the one that creates an advantage, and DeMar excels at using all of them.