The only real takeaway from this game is to hope that Dejounte Murray is okay. He’s critical to the team’s success right now, and even more important to its future. His MRI is scheduled for Monday, October 8th, and hopefully we’ll know more after that.
In the meantime, there were a few other things that stood out, not least of which that early Sunday afternoon preseason games should be banned.
- The Spurs may be on track to shoot fewer three-pointers than any team in the last two seasons. Very little of what goes on in preseason has much of a relationship to how teams perform when the games matter, but if anything does, it’s three-point attempts. Over the last three years, there’ a much better correlation between preseason and regular season 3PAs than just about any other stat. You can check out the data here. After putting up just 57 threes through three games so far (which is just four more than the Rockets shot in this contest alone) the Spurs are averaging 19 per game. No team has averaged less than 20 in the regular season since 2015-16, when six did, including the 67-win Spurs. That’s not to say the Spurs won’t shoot a few more long-balls this season, but don’t be surprised if they’re last in the league in three-point attempts.
- The Rockets like to play small, and that lured the Spurs into running a lot more post-ups in this game than they had in the previous two. In general, it didn’t turn out great for the silver and black. But it’s hard to blame that on the post play, because the team shot so poorly. When you only hit 38.2% of your field goals, it doesn’t really matter what kind of offense you run. Fortunately, the Rockets weren’t much better. Jonathan Feigen summed it up pretty well:
So far, this game is proof that mid-range shots and 3s count the same when they miss.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) October 7, 2018
- Even among the parade of bricks, Rudy Gay continued his hot shooting, going 6/7 for 13 points. Better yet, DeMar had his first real scoring outburst with the team, adding 22 on 16 shots, drawing four shooting fouls, and going 7/8 on the ensuing free throws. It was a pretty efficient performance for the Spurs new star, and given how much he had the ball, his 1 turnover to 5 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals made this an excellent outing. Often lost in the conversation about DeMar’s “inefficient” scoring profile is the fact that he draws a lot of free throws and rarely turns the ball over. Both qualities were plainly visible in this game.
- The Spurs continued to experiment with lineups, and it was clear they were rightly unconcerned with the score. They played 9 different lineups of rotation players for solid chunks of time, alternating between one and two bigs for much of the game. In general, the Spurs look to have a much better offensive rhythm with Rudy or Davis Bertans at the 4, and DeMar or Marco Belinelli on the wing. But on the other end of the floor, opponents have struggled to score in the paint when two of LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, or Jakob Poeltl are playing, for obvious reasons.
- DeMar split his minutes between the 2 and the 3, and the Spurs made absolutely no attempt to hide him on defense. He spent much of his time guarding James Harden and ended up on both Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony at different points. He wasn’t great individually, but few are in preseason. Still, he demonstrated good awareness and is averaging a little over a steal per game so far. He and Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 85 steals each last year, so that’s not surprising. In fact, there’s good reason to think DeMar will have the best defensive season of his career, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.
- The Spurs switched up their guard rotation in the first half. After the Detroit game (which saw Patty Mills paired with Dejounte, and Bryn Forbes with Derrick White), the Spurs played Patty with Derrick to close the first quarter and Bryn spent much of the second alongside Dejounte. Either pairing helps offset the weaknesses of two of the team’s best shooters, but Dejounte and Patty looked more comfortable together, most likely due to their time spent on the court last season, and seemed like a tandem that might be able to do some damage this year.
- Which brings us back to the only truly significant outcome of the game – Dejounte’s injury. His long-term health is the single most important thing for the franchise, and you could tell how much it affected the team to see him on the ground in pain. Dejounte is already a pro, though, and essentially refused to be fretted over. Whatever the results of the MRI, it’s almost impossible to believe he won’t find a way back to his path to stardom.
- If DJM is out for an extended period, Derrick will have to carry the load at point guard. The Spurs’ defense will certainly take a hit, and with so many question marks hanging over their offense, it’s hard to see a route back to the playoffs for a team missing such an important piece. White is a capable young player, and this is certainly not the last injury pitfall that awaits potential playoff teams. Sadly, the NBA season is often a war of attrition. After last season, that’s a fact the Spurs know all too well.