In an unusual scheduling quirk under normal circumstances but something that will be common this season, the Spurs played their second consecutive game in Houston to close out the preseason, and it wasn’t pretty. The Rockets blew them out from the start, knocking down seemingly every three they took while the Spurs couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn for most of the night on their way to a 128-106 loss.
Devin Vassell was one of the few bright spots once again with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals, while DeMar DeRozan led five other Spurs in double figures with 21 points. Christian Wood made his debut for the Rockets and put up a 27-point, 10-rebound double-double.
- Before the game, Gregg Popovich was asked about Derrick White, who has yet to play while recovering from toe surgery but is eligible for a contract extension before the December 21 deadline. Without one, he will be]come a restricted free agent next summer. It sounds like something is in the works:
The Spurs face a Dec. 21 deadline to agree to a contract extension with Derrick White. The team is hopeful to get something done. Pop just now: "He’s somebody we plan on for the future.”— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) December 17, 2020
- Pop went with the same starting line-up as the last game, featuring Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, and LaMarcus Aldridge. This may be a sign that this will be the group he goes with until either White or Keldon Johnson returns, but suffice it to say, they did not come out as hot as they did on Tuesday. Tonight was the complete opposite, as the Spurs only shot 4-21 in the first quarter, 0-10 from three, and were only saved by making 12-13 free throws for a 20-33 deficit.
- There was very little meaningful ball movement in the first half of this game, with most of the Spurs misses coming from iso-ball, pull-up jumpers, and fadeaways. They finished the half shooting under 30% with just 6 assists, including 2-21 from three, and were down 65-40 at the break.
- If there was a bright spot in the first half, it was Vassell and Murray, who seem to be developing some chemistry. At one point Murray found the rookie wing for a dunk on a drive-and-dump to the basket, and later he picked James Harden’s pocket before passing it off the Vassell for the easy jumper. In fact, Murray ignited the Spurs in the second quarter for their one positive offensive stretch with his aggressive play on both ends. They had been down by as much as 19 before be helped lead them on a 14-2 run to get back within seven. The Rockets went on a run themselves to get back up 60-45 at the half, but Murray and Vassell’s combined 20 points, mostly from the paint, were about the only enjoyable part of an otherwise ugly first half.
- There aren’t really any observations to make from the second half other than it was worse than the first, as the Spurs got outscored by 15 in the third quarter to turn the entire fourth quarter into garbage time (where the Spurs actually made the score a little more respectable than it was). It’s the preseason, the Spurs have six days to figure things out before the regular season begins, they may have Johnson back by then, and insert all other preseason talk here. Regardless, if this preseason has taught us anything about this team so far, it’s that fears of their lack of three-point shooting may be legit. Yes, White and Johnson may alleviate those problems to an extent, but will they be enough? This may be yet another reason (and they’re piling up) why Pop should have no choice but to play Vassell early and often. He and Patty Mills were the only consistent outside shooters across the preseason, hitting 5-10 and 10-21, respectively.
- Speaking of which, if you were told heading into any game against the Rockets that the Spurs would have a 32-14 edge in free throw attempts, and that they’d hit them at a good rate, you’d probably believe that’s a good thing. Not this time. Believe it or not, three is greater than one, and while the Spurs outscored the Rockets by 14 points at the line, the Rockets won the scoring battle by 30 from beyond the arc. That will lose you a few games regardless of the opponent.
- Not that I need to see any more, but why do the Rockets get four preseason games compared to three for the Spurs? Just wondering.
For the Rockets fans perspective, visit The Dream Shake.
The Spurs will open the regular season in Memphis against the Grizzles on Wednesday, December 23. Tipoff will be at 7:00 PM CT on Fox Sports Southwest.