It really was a mess of a game, at times. San Antonio looked as discombobulated on both ends as it did during the worst parts of last season for large stretches. Transition and secondary transition defense were a disaster, and any play the Wizards ran involving misdirection had a high chance of working in the half court. The offense was good on the break but mostly consisted of strong individual efforts in one-on-one situations or after a couple of passes when Washington’s defense was set. Had this performance happened in December, no Spurs fan could actually be encouraged by it in any way.
Fortunately, it was just the second game of the season, and we can look past all the flaws and enjoy one of the most entertaining nights of basketball that will be played in San Antonio all year.
Both the Spurs and Wizards gave everyone all the highlights and narrative twists they could handle. Isaiah Thomas looking like his old self, at least for a few offensive trips; Dejounte Murray showing that he’s a game-changer on both ends; DeMar DeRozan sporadically exploding for dunks but also working like a master craftsman from mid-range; Davis Bertans having a revenge game, raining fire from outside; Rui Hachimura looking as clueless as he is talented; LaMarcus Aldridge hitting from inside, out and everywhere in between. The game really had it all. Even the ending was perfect, as Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, in the first seconds they’ve ever shared on the court, combined to contest and block Bradley Beal’s potential game-tying floater to secure the win for San Antonio.
It’s almost a shame to have to talk about the stretches in between the big moments instead of just bask in their beauty, but that’s what we need to do in hopes of learning something meaningful. The obvious lesson this season has taught us so far is that the Spurs have a lot of work to do. They were blessed by the schedule makers, who set them up to open the season against two young teams which are trying to figure out their identity, because had they performed as they did against the Knicks and Wizards against more disciplined and talented squads, they could be 0-2 right now instead of undefeated. There’s a lot of room for improvement, to put it mildly.
There will be time to worry about that later on. The Spurs do seem to have the pieces needed to be good already in place and need to simply figure out how to make them fit. So for now it’s better to chalk the struggles up as early season woes that will disappear as the team develops its chemistry and everyone gets accustomed to their roles.
As long as the wins keep on coming, let’s enjoy the unique entertainment that only early season chaos can provide for a while longer.
- Aldridge and DeRozan combined for 53 points. LaMarcus looked much more comfortable than DeMar early on, but DeRozan closed strong and ended up making the game-winning bucket on a strong drive to the basket. The cornerstones did well.
- Speaking of cornerstones, Dejounte Murray is making a case to be included in that group. He finished the game with 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in just 23 minutes. He makes plays on both ends that few others can make. If he stays healthy, he could become a star sooner than expected.
- San Antonio had 21 offensive rebounds. The Wizards’ lack of rebounding experts at the power forward position surely contributed to that gigantic number, but the Spurs deserve credit for hustling for those offensive caroms. Trey Lyles got five on his own. The second chances didn’t result in a lot of points, but it’s always good to control the glass.
- The Spurs didn’t shoot well from outside as a team but Murray and White both took three three-pointers each. I would have been happy with that even if they had missed all six, but White actually canned a couple of corner looks. Keep shooting, young guards.
- The second unit could be special. White, Mills, Gay and Poeltl all complement each other well. They still need to figure out how to play together on offense and with whoever ends up being the fifth member of the group, but there is a lot to like about San Antonio’s bench, for the second year in a row.
- Lonnie Walker IV had his first minutes of the season and got his first bucket on a pretty drive. He also looked a little lost, which is understandable. Not a bad debut for Lonnie, but he’ll probably have to make more of his minutes to usurp Marco Belinelli’s role. DeMarre Carroll, meanwhile, got another DNP-CD.
- Davis Bertans had a dream return to San Antonio. He finished the night with 23 points on 7-for-7 shooting. Everyone watching was terrified of him getting open for that last shot, too. Davis could have a big year in Washington.