The Spurs brought in the new year in dramatic fashion, needing an extra period to put away the banged-up Golden State Warriors. San Antonio kicked off December with an NBA record four consecutive overtime games, and they ended the month how they started it.
Golden State came into the matchup without three of their four All-Stars, but Draymond Green did his best to direct traffic minus Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and D’Angelo Russell. The Warriors’ point forward played his patented brand of hard-nosed defense and fell one assist shy of his third triple-double of the season.
Although the Dubs led for most of the contest, a strong defensive stand in the third quarter erased a ten-point deficit and gave the good guys their first lead since the opening moments of the game. The Silver and Black went on to surrender the lead in the final frame but made up for it by exploding for 17 points in overtime and inching closer towards a winning record.
- The first quarter has been a problem for the Spurs this season, and they once again had trouble finding any sort of rhythm to begin the contest. San Antonio missed six of their first seven shots and fell behind by double digits early. They allowed 15 first-quarter points to Glenn Robinson III, scored their first 16 points of the game in the paint, and salvaged the final minutes of the opening period behind a trio of three-pointers from Patty Mills, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV. A sluggish start isn’t insurmountable when your opponent is as shorthanded as the Warriors are, but the surging Oklahoma City Thunder won’t be so forgiving if the Spurs come out flat.
- Lonnie Walker IV possesses a combination of explosiveness and fluidity that makes him a joy to watch on the court. The second-year two-guard is perhaps the most exciting young prospect in recent years, and he’s always good for one or two jaw-dropping sequences per game. While the 21-year-old effortlessly blurs past opponents, moving at light-speed leaves him liable to make costly mistakes in a hurry. Though Lonnie scored 7 points, 3 rebounds, and a block in 11 minutes, he also racked up 4 quick fouls that forced him to the bench. Coaches have to live with the good and bad that comes with the inexperience of youth, but Popovich should be thrilled with 0 turnovers from a player whose style can include too much giving at times.
- People can always find a reason to complain, and DeMar DeRozan might be the perfect example of nothing is ever enough. Despite operating at an unbelievably efficient rate over his last five appearances, some fans have focused on his avoidance of the three-ball. And while that is true to a certain extent, maybe he doesn’t have to extend his range to be effective. The four-time All-Star leads all 20 point per game scorers in field goal percentage (68.9%) since December 21st, and his 3.2 assist to turnover ratio is among the best in the league at his position. DeRozan was outstanding in San Antonio’s overtime victory, tallying 24 points, 5 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals, and just 1 turnover.
- That Dejounte Murray extension is beginning to look like one of the best deals of the offseason. Although his contract may have come at a discounted rate because of an untimely injury the previous summer, there was always the possibility Dejounte wouldn’t live up to the money on the table. Murray hasn’t just met expectations, he’s exceeded them. His mid-range jumper is reformed, his playmaking has been better than advertised, and he looks quicker and more explosive than ever before. Tuesday night was a perfect culmination of all the aforementioned attributes. The San Antonio Spurs’ point guard of the future dropped 15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and took control of the game in overtime.
- LaMarcus Aldridge slowly turned his season this December. Apart from his Inactive, DNP, and two poor showings to start the month, the All-Star big man was an absolute force for the Spurs. Over the final 8 games of 2019, Aldridge averaged 21.0/9./2.5 on 53.1/48.0/85.7 shooting splits. Those are some remarkable numbers, but with a little context, they become even more impressive. Exactly 37 players averaged 20 or more points from December 14th to December 31st, but only Jaylen Brown, Norman Powell, and LaMarcus ranked in the top 5 in both field goal and three-point percentage. What’s more impressive was his ability to lead this elite group in blocks per game (2.5), beating out the likes of acclaimed rim protectors Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Best of all, LA ended the decade on a positive note, filling the box score to the tune of 17 points, 12 rebounds, 4 dimes, and 3 swats.