clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Youth was on display in the Spurs’ close win over the Grizzlies

New, comment

The future, uh, finds a way.

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

Well, it’s official. The San Antonio Spurs are fun again. Whatever your requirements for sports enjoyment, they measure up.

You want wins? Well, the Spurs have now officially worked their way into their third winning streak of 3+ consecutive games this season. You want an exciting, fast paced, and balanced style of play? How about a game in which six different Spurs ended up in double figures and eight players were responsible for scoring eight points or more?

Have you been dying for San Antonio to transition to a youth movement? How does a game in which Pop gave 20+ minutes of court time to six players with four years of NBA experience (or less) sound to you? Heck, these players are even willing to throw in a tightly contested endgame if you like. No additional charge (unless it’s the one Derrick White draws from the opposing point guard).

Whatever your preference, it’s hard to say that the end result hasn’t been thrilling so far for a Spurs team that remains undefeated in the Orlando NBA Bubble. And while it got a bit out of hand in the final frame for our young heroes, it’s also the sort of thing you might expect from a squad making use of a number of unfamiliar lineups and compensating for a diminished big man rotation featuring all the depth and flavor of a ®Triscuit.

I mean, maybe you’re a big fan of whole wheat wafers baked into the shape of a square. Maybe you just need some bran in your diet, and consuming those diabolical little chunks of misery is the best way for you to stay healthy so that you can keep doing that voodoo that you do so well. I’m not here to judge. (I let the internet do that for me)

However I think we can all agree that Drew Eubanks is not someone you’d prefer to have on the court for 23(!) minutes against the likes of Jonas Valančiūnas and Jaren Jackson Jr. unless you’re convinced that there’s no better course of action. (Please don’t message me about Metu. He has the athleticism of a young Kenneth Faried, and the on-court awareness of the horse head from The Godfather.)

Thankfully the Silver and Black were able to avoid making the sort of mess that comes from consuming too much fiber, and came away with an 108-106 victory over a Grizzlies team that they all but had to beat in order to have any kind of chance at a playoff berth.

Something worth noting is that once both teams entered the second half, this was a game in which San Antonio’s scrappy young rotations held a lethally mobile Memphis squad at arm’s length. And barring foul trouble for Jakob Poeltl that necessitated Eubanks’ minutes, it’s likely the Spurs would have had themselves a wire-to-wire victory against a team earmarked by most NBA writers as an exciting and notable up-and-comer.

It’s one thing for the Spurs to squeeze out a win and assert themselves as one of the better-disciplined teams in the bubble. But for that stodgy ‘ol reliable postseason warhorse to out-shine a media darling in the process? Now THAT’S something to tune in for.

If you haven’t had the good fortune to witness the goings-on on in Orlando yet, or maybe you’re still feeling frustrated about how the season went prior to the shutdown, I highly suggest you queue up San Antonio’s next contests for viewing, because to paraphrase Buffalo Springfield, win or lose: “There’s something happening here.”

Observations:

  • In a strange turn of events, The Spurs out-rebounded the Grizzlies 49-39. With Jakob Poeltl facing foul trouble for most of the game, SA’s coalition of scrappy young talent battled for rebounds as if the game depended on it — which it did. Certainly we’ve been aware of the rebounding capabilities of San Antonio’s guard rotation for some time now, but everyone chipped in as seven different Spurs came away with four rebounds or more, as opposed to only three for Memphis. And while you don’t want that be a recurrent issue for a San Antonio team about to go head-to-head with Joel Embiid, Al Horford, and Ben Simmons, it’s nice to see that kind of cohesive sense of urgency in a team that’s going to have to pull out all the stops for a shot at the postseason. Even if they do fall short (the odds are certainly not in their favor) it’s great to see this team gelling in the face of adversity.
  • Derrick White remains a steadying force for the Spurs regardless of what gets thrown his way. From the moment that White was forced into full-time action last season by Dejounte’s injury, he’s risen to just about every occasion and successfully navigated the perils of whatever role he’s been asked to fulfill. Defending with the same steady effectiveness he’s displayed over the past two seasons, he went for a quiet 16/7/6 and was the only Spur not to cough up a single turnover. Unfortunately, he was unable to consistently find his shot, which makes me wonder how close this game would have been had he not gone 4 for 12 on the evening.
  • DeMar DeRozan’s role continues to be a bit of a conundrum for the long-term when it comes to this team. While he was certainly a major part of San Antonio holding on for the win (as well two missed free throws from clinching it a bit earlier), he remains a considerable defensive liability, and even more so when asked to fill the four-spot. Even when surrounded by a number of young and fleet-footed teammates, DeRozan still manages to gum up the works of the motion offense with his antipathy for perimeter shooting. He’s done a marvelous job of stepping back his usage to counter this, but I can’t help but wonder how satisfied he is with that sort of game-plan. And just as crucially, I can’t help but wonder what use the Spurs could have for an expensive player whose value is closely tied to his usage and scoring, if that usage has to be reigned in in order for the team to succeed as a whole. So far in the bubble, most of San Antonio’s most effective lineups have been of the four-out variety, and without an effective three-ball at his disposal, DeRozan compromises some of that effectiveness. Whether it’s Aldridge or someone else, another effective big man is really what this souped-up version of the Spurs really need. And as much as I like him as a person, DeMar is starting to look more and more like an expensive luxury that the Spurs can ill afford.
  • Oh, and in case you haven’t heard it already, Keldon Johnson is a bad, bad man:

Playing You Out – The Theme Song of the Evening:

You Make My Dreams (Come True) by Hall and Oates