On Friday, Coach Pop played his starters and key rotation players the most amount of minutes this preseason, in order to get them ready for Wednesday’ Game 1 of the Regular Season. Although Pop did also have to play his guys a bit more than usual because San Antonio found themselves a bit short, as Zach Collins, Al-Farouq Aminu, Tre Jones & Jock Landale were all out this evening due to injuries. Thaddeus Young was also a scratch, but it looks like that oldest Spur was just rested.
Spurs - Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Doug McDermott & Jakob Poeltl
Rockets - Kevin Porter Jr, Jalen Green, Ja’Sean Tate, Christian Wood & Alpheren Sengun
The contest early was low scoring as both team struggled to find good looks in the half court as turnovers for the Rockets halted them. For the Spurs they looked for their new sharpshooter Doug McDermott early. McBuckets had 4 shots in the first 4 minutes going 1⁄3 from three. The Spurs were able to create easy looks when they got out in transition, but were looking jumbled in the half court, with players running into each other constantly. Houston started to get into the contest with their drive and kick game but the Spurs matched with their effort in their defensive rotations. Keldon was giving the Rockets perimeter and interior defense a problem with his driving off the catch, as the Rockets defenders couldn’t keep him in front and that allowed Johnson to get to the rim and go to the line. Unfortunately, KJ didn’t have his free throw hat on today, as he missed a whopping 6 in his 30 minutes of play. The Spurs played a good defensive first period with only one problem, which was on the glass. This was no surprise with the fact the Rockets were effectively playing two centers, and Wood in particular was eating up offensive rebounds, he had 5 in the first half alone. Lonnie Walker came into the game and provided an instant spark as he got himself going while also creating for others, including when he drove hard into the teeth of the defense before delivering a no look pass onto the chest of Keita Bates-Diop for a wide open three. Lonnie congratulated himself by gifting himself three points the next time down the floor when he pulled up for a transition three. San Antonio were in control of the first period and led 30-21.
To start the second, the Spurs found themselves a bit lost defensively, but this was mainly to do with the unit on the floor. Forbes, McDermott and Lonnie are not elite defenders and making sure there are always 3 to 4 top defenders on the court should be a priority for Pop this year. One man who is an elite defender is Derrick White, and it was on the other end of the floor where he was making a big difference in the 2nd frame. Two lovely cuts from the Colorado native gave himself 4 easy points with the distribution coming from Jakob and Doug. The Spurs knew who was the key man for Houston tonight and that’s why they were constantly in the grill of Christian Wood, but for the most part it didn’t matter as Wood hit a number of tough jumpers. The Spurs perimeter defenders did a good job of channeling the Rockets drives into the body of Jakob or Drew, and the big men were swatting shots left, right and center because of that. Dejounte was enjoying himself as well - creating buckets for himself from the midrange and in the paint. The best part of the Spurs offense was their ball movement and off ball cuts, this opened up tons of threes, and the Spurs took advantage with 3 starters (Dejounte, Derrick, Doug) hitting two threes each in the first half to help San Antonio to a 16-point lead at the interval.
After hitting two threes in the first half, Dejounte was not going to back down from shooting even more and he came out with another triple to start the third period, before finding Doug in transition for his third three of the game. The Spurs were running on all cylinders. The Rockets 2021 draft pick and number 2 overall selection Jalen Green started to find his footing this half, as he used his much talked about explosiveness to create buckets and fouls on drives to the rim. Keldon and Derrick did do a good job of guarding him but the calls were just not going their way early in the third. Then after another Jalen Green drive and foul call, Doug McDermott actually got called for a tech when he slapped the stanchion. It may only be a preseason game, but it’s definitely nice to see the players caring and showing frustration when they believe it is warranted. This didn’t affect the way Doug was playing though, as he got open time after time in transition and it was paying off with his 3 ball. Pop throughout preseason has done a nice job of always having one of White or Murray on the floor at the same time to run the offense, and when Murray sat down in the third, White really took over with some smart playmaking and shot creation. This allowed the score to tick over, until Pop was able to get them both in at the same time again. Devin Vassell was the only Spur who played in the first half to not score a point, but in the second half he was a monster - creating havoc on both ends, picking off full court passes on defense, driving to the hoop and creating contact on offense and rebounding like a mad man on both sides of the court.
The Spurs were up 96-79 to start the 4th, but that didn’t make Pop pull his starters, as he played them well into the quarter. Dejounte is becoming a true playmaker with the way he sees the court and he showed this off when he backed up to half court, surveyed the defense, and then swung a no look one handed pass to White for a corner three. A thing of beauty. Pop must have been so impressed that he pulled Dejounte and gave him an early rest, as Primo entered for the first time on the evening. Josh Primo was trying to replicate Dejounte’ passes as on his first touch he drove to the bucket before kicking to corner for a Keldon splash. Keldon must’ve gained some confidence from that because next time down the floor he drove and flipped up a one handed circus shot that not only fell for two points, but swished. The Spurs could do no wrong tonight, and after Bryn Forbes hit a three off a Keldon handoff and the Rockets called a timeout, Pop cleared the bench. Primo and Wieskamp used the most of their minutes as they also impressed as the Spurs roamed to victory by 28 points; 126-98.
- Pop went with a ten-man rotation tonight, that included Keita Bates-Diop as the backup 4 instead of Thad Young. This could be because they were just resting him tonight, but maybe a trade could be on the horizon. Remember, the Spurs still need to cut or trade one more player before the season begins.
- Spurs shot the 3 ball with so much confidence tonight. No one expects the Spurs to be a top 10 3-point shooting team, but they can definitely shoot like they did tonight. 8 threes in the first half and 15/39 on the night as a whole. 39 percent may not be realistic every night, but if they shoot with confidence and avoid hesitation they can be an average 3-point shooting team at worst.
- Rebounding Woes? The end number of 59-53 doesn’t look too bad for the Spurs, but in stretches they were getting killed on the glass. They gave up 16 offensive rebounds in total, while Wood and Sengun both had double-digit boards. The Spurs won’t come across too many teams that play 2 big men together so maybe there’s nothing to worry about, but something to monitor for sure.
Play of the Game
The effort, the dunk, the ovation.
Dejounte Murray hustles for the save ‼— NBA (@NBA) October 16, 2021
Keldon Johnson finishes the slam pic.twitter.com/T1O5HCATOx
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
Honorable Mention - Devin Vassell (27 minutes, 13 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks)
Devin had a really strong second half, but was a bit quiet in the first and thats why he misses out tonight. Was great on both ends of the floor like usual, and is surely going to earn himself some big minutes this season.
3RD Place (1 point) – Doug McDermott (19 minutes, 16 points, 4 assists, 4/9 threes)
This is exactly why Doug was brought to San Antonio, his 3-point shooting, off ball movement and veteran leadership will all be vital for the Spurs this season. Dougie saved his best preseason performance for last, and now can hopefully go into the start of the season playing just like tonight.
2ND Place (2 points) – Derrick White (29 minutes, 20 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals)
Derrick just like Doug found his rhythm in this game. Hitting 3 of his 7 triples, while shooting 57% from the floor. White play-made well when Dejounte was on the bench but also did a good job of being involved in the offense when they both were on the floor. Defense was as elite as ever, this Derrick White is the best Derrick White.
1ST Place (3 points) – Dejounte Murray (30 minutes, 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 3’s)
I’m running out of words to describe Dejounte. He gives it his absolute all in every game, preseason, regular season, playoffs, it’s all the same to him, he plays as if it’s his last game. DJ was running the show tonight, in transition, in half court, on defense, it all starts with number 5. If the Spurs can do anything this season in terms of winning games, it all starts and ends with Dejounte Murray.
FINAL Preseason Tally Leaderboard:
1st - Dejounte Murray - 9 points
2nd - Keldon Johnson - 6 points
3rd - Bryn Forbes - 4 points
T-4th - Josh Primo & Lonnie Walker IV - 3 points each
6th - Derrick White - 2 points
T-7th - Drew Eubanks, Jakob Poeltl & Doug McDermott - 1 point each
Congrats to our preseason SVP: Dejounte Murray
The SVP leaderboard will now reset for the regular season, leave down below in the comments who you think will be the regular season SVP !
Next Game: Vs Orlando on Wednesday
The Spurs start their regular season at home against the also rebuilding Orlando Magic. This is a really good opportunity for the Spurs to start with a win, but this is the NBA, and as we know, no game is a gimme.