It is Spurs playoff gameday! As you ready yourself with as much information as you can to prep for tip-off just hours away, there is a particular link that warrants your attention immediately. The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjark’s penned an article earlier this morning appropriately titled “The Guard Matchup That will Define the Nuggets-Spurs Series” that details the critical components the two opposing point guards bring to their respective teams the ongoing match-up. Given how the end of Game 1 played out between Derrick White and Jamal Murray, there is enough evidence produced by Tjarks to shift the attention away from Nikola Jokic versus whichever Spurs big(s) guard him squarely towards these two stellar guards.
In a proverbial “tale of the tape”, Tjarks points out:
- White’s credentials start with being “a steady decision-maker (3.9 assists on 1.4 turnovers) who can make open shots (33.8 percent from 3 on 2.1 attempts per game) with the size (6-foot-4 and 190 pounds with a 6-foot-8 wingspan) and athleticism to defend multiple positions. San Antonio has its best net rating with White on the floor (plus-4.3 in 1,728 minutes) compared with their other starters, and its worst when he’s off (minus-0.9 in 2,223 minutes).”
- In looking at the point guard’s relationship to Demar DeRozan, Tjarks cites that White “is the skeleton key that unlocks everyone else on the Spurs. DeRozan, an average defender and poor outside shooter, needs to be paired with a 3-and-D guard like White. His net rating this season goes from plus-2.3 in 1,238 minutes with White to minus-2.4 in 1,451 minutes without him.”
- While Murray and White did not cover each other fully throughout game 1, Tjarks recalled that “Murray was 6-of-17 in the 35 possessions where White was his primary defender, while White was 6-of-7 in the 33 possessions where Murray was his primary defender.”
- Interestingly enough, while we know White has spent the better part of his early career beating a path between Austin and San Antonio, Murray “has lived a charmed life in the NBA. He’s a score-first player with only average size (6-foot-4 and 207 pounds with a 6-foot-6 wingspan) and athleticism for a shooting guard. Playing next to Jokic gives him the freedom to hunt for his own shot against smaller defenders at point guard without having to worry about facilitating the offense.” Oof.
- If for some reason Murray continues to struggle throughout the series, it doesn’t seem that Denver would want to have a backup guard option, such as Monte Morris, because the “plan is for Murray (22) to be their second star next to Jokic (24) for the next decade. They don’t want to shake Murray’s confidence. He will need to play a lot better for them to beat the Spurs. It starts with him making open 3s and moving the ball when he gets in the lane. He rarely passed it back to Jokic after the big man set a screen for him in the two-man game.”
Tjarks ends the article by highlighting how differently the two guards are seen given their pedigrees: “White could make his name off Murray in this series. Murray can earn his against White.”
Pounders, I hope you are as pumped as I am about Game 2!