In the movie version of this Spurs season we would just be starting the montage. We have a bunch of young basketball players learning from a wise old coach trying to restore a franchise back to its glory days. A sports montage always starts off a little rough, with a little improvement shown each time we cycle through the skills. In the movies we only have to suffer through the tough times for a few minutes before our heroes are ready for the big game. Unfortunately in reality, this is not the movies and we are forced to watch our guys painstakingly wax on and wax off in real time.
It’s hard not to get frustrated or impatient, but we have to keep it positive even at times when the light at the end of the tunnel gets harder to see. It’s there, and this team will envitable get there. Eventually.
For now, the only thing we have to discuss is what we’ve witnessed so far, against the Jazz it was tough sledding. In my eyes the MVP of this game was Rudy Gobert. He single handedly derailed what, up to this point, had been a pretty good looking offense. Rudy Gobert stands at 7’1” and is arguably the best defender in the entire league. Everybody on the Spurs, except for Keldon Johnson was in no hurry to take the ball to the basket with Gobert waiting for them. What we were left with was a slew of 15 foot jumpers and inaccurate floaters. Even with players not wanting to test him, Gobert still wound up with 6 blocked shots.
He not only affects what happens in the paint, he’s able to affect the outside shooting too. As nobody is driving all the way to the rim the off ball defenders of Utah don’t have to help and are able to stick with their assignments. The Spurs only attempted 19 3s, I’m not here to advocate for them to shoot more for the sake of it, I’m simply pointing out that the offence wasn’t able to create any good looks from beyond the perimeter and that’s the doing of Rudy Gobert.
Speaking of defence, San Antonio’s was less than ideal against the Jazz. In the first quarter they had absolutely no answer for the Mitchell/Gobert pick and roll. Then on top of that the Jazz couldn’t miss a shot if they tried. They shot 55.1% overall including hitting 21 3s at a rate of 51.2%. Sean Elliot said it best during the broadcast when he said that the Jazz, “just look too comfortable”. The problem today for the Spurs was that there wasn’t really a sense of urgency on the defensive end.
The really weird thing about San Antonio’s defense is that they forced the Jazz into 19 turnovers, you would think that a defense that forces a team into that many mistakes would give up less than 130 points. Although, as much as they excel in the spectacular they fail in the mundane. They are very good at jumping passing lanes and intercepting passes. Dejounte Murray has at least one poke away steal per game, but they don’t seem to always do the gritty things like fighting through screens.
It won’t be like this forever, the good parts are coming. Let’s help each other be patient and hang in there. This is a young team with a bright future to look forward to and one day we’ll look back at games like this and have a good laugh.
- If we do look back on games like this and laugh, we’ll think of Dejounte Murray’s performance as hilarious. He has been surprisingly kind of great so far this season, so tonight's poor performance caught me off guard a little bit. He made exactly 1 shot on 13 attempts to finish with 4 points. On one possession in the 2nd half he drove the ball to the basket and got his shot blocked by Gobert. Dejounte recovered the ball and now had Gobert on him in the corner. Murray, this time, tried to shoot a 3 over Gobert, but that shot was blocked too. That my friends, was his night in a nutshell.
- On a brighter note there was Keldon Johnson. He was one of the few guys on the team not intimidated by the Jazz starting centre at all. He continually took the ball to the basket and finished with regularity. He shot 10/16 for 22 points and had 7 rebounds. A couple times he threw dunks down so hard I’m surprised he didn’t rip the rim right off the backboard. I love his energy and his fearlessness. He plays basketball the way it should be played.
- Can we get some help for poor Jakob Poeltl? He just finished two games trying to deal with Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol and now he’s in there competing his heart out with Rudy Gobert. He still managed to have a pretty good game, he hit 5/8 shots for 11 points and 7 rebounds. He also dished out 4 assists, I think his passing is underrated. It may not be flashy, but he constantly makes the correct basketball play. I’m never worried when the ball is in Jakob’s hands.
- Devin Vassell played his most minutes in a game so far this season. He didn’t set the world on fire, but was solid. In 22 minutes he had 4 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Even when he’s not scoring he’s still doing something. He continues to do what he does best and be a pest on defense. What I really noticed this game is his ability to get his hands out to challenge every pass that’s near him, without getting himself out of his defensive position. It’s this perfect mixture of solid defense and risk taking. He’s going to force a lot of turnovers in his career.
Tuesday, January 5th @ Los Angeles Clippers