San Antonio’s 28-point blowout loss to the Thunder on Sunday night was yet another inconsistent performance in a season that has been full of erratic execution. They built an early lead, fell victim to an extended scoring drought, and never regained any semblance of rhythm.
The Spurs battled spotty shooting from end to end, but it was their defective defense that truly cost them a third-straight victory. Despite the loss coming in a frustratingly familiar fashion, it was refreshing to know the unrelentingly brutal Rodeo Road Trip had finally come to a close.
While the Silver and Black split the regular-season series with Oklahoma City, the potential playoff seeding repercussions are becoming more irrelevant with each loss as they continue to head for the 2020 lottery. The good guys will be back at the AT&T Center for the first time in 25 days when they square off with the postseason-bound Dallas Mavericks, and the path from here doesn’t get any easier.
- Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV may be the future of the franchise, but the talented trio of guards were stunningly ineffective against the Thunder. The second, third, and fourth-year professionals combined for 5 points on just 2-of-18 shooting in 71 total minutes. On a positive note, they collectively accumulated 12 assists and might have notched a couple more had the Spurs not posted a frigid 36.9% from the field. Having said that, it’s difficult to put this loss on any singular player. Dejounte picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and never seemed comfortable the rest of the game, failing to score for the first time this season. Derrick nailed a triple but otherwise appeared timid after a series of bricks and a resounding swat from Nerlens Noel. As for Lonnie, he might as well have been invisible to the four men he shared the court with through three quarters as he continued playing a corner-camping, rim-cutting Bruce Bowen type role. Though these sort of lackluster displays might make some fans hesitant for the Spurs to hand the young guys the reins, growing pains are a necessary and expected side effect in the development of inexperienced twenty-somethings.
- DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge had equally disappointing nights in the finale of the 2020 Rodeo Road Trip. San Antonio’s one-two punch came together for a measly 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Neither player looked particularly engaged on either side of the ball, and pair of former All-Stars tallied 0 steals, 0 blocks, and a single deflection between the two of them. The Spurs are reportedly adamant about making a serious playoff push in the final leg of the season, but that won’t be happening if DeMar and LaMarcus disappear in important games. To be fair, no one in Silver and Black scored 15 points on Sunday night, so it’s not like they were the only guys who failed to show up. Still, anything less than average is going to be scrutinized when their annual joint salaries add up to $53.7M. While this may be their first poor outing in their last handful of appearances, the good guys can’t afford many losses at this point in the schedule, and their odds of winning plummet when their leading scorers falter.
- How about the other young fellas? Though the Spurs faithful haven’t seen much of the first and second-year players this season, an unusual amount of garbage time minutes opened up with the Spurs trailing 20 plus points early in the third quarter. Keldon Johnson and Chimezie Metu were the primary beneficiaries of the blowout, recording extended run for one of the first times in their careers. Keldon registered 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists while advertising his relentless defensive intensity. Chimezie scraped together 8 points and 3 rebounds and put his developing offensive repertoire on display. Johnson and Metu are far from being the most seasoned players on the roster, but what they lack in skill they make up for in drive, length, and athleticism. Although head coach Gregg Popovich has kept them in Austin with the G-League affiliate for the majority of the season, it could benefit all parties to get the eager fledglings involved. While I’m not suggesting they play 15 to 20 minutes per game, it wouldn’t hurt to insert them into the lineup when San Antonio requires an injection of electricity. Keldon and Chimezie are a bundle of energy, and their effort alone could provide some much-needed life.
Here are career baskets number three, four, five and six for San Antonio rookie Keldon Johnson.— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) February 24, 2020
The Spurs got pummeled by OKC but these garbage time minutes were valuable for the young guard. pic.twitter.com/Xcu9UYv7F0