138 days later and the Spurs are back in action. A lot has happened in the franchise in those 4 and a half months, but it for sure was nice to get back to some basketball action.
In their first preseason game the San Antonio Spurs took on the Utah Jazz at the AT&T Centre. The Jazz were the first seed last year and were expected to be in for the chance to win the NBA championship, before they melted down and lost 4 straight to the LA Clippers in the second round of the playoffs. The Jazz were relatively quiet in the off-season bringing back most of their guys and only adding a few pieces around the edges, including former Spur Rudy Gay.
Rudy Gay along with his namesake Rudy Gobert were missing for the Jazz. Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic also sat out. For the Spurs Zach Collins and Tre Jones missed out through injury, while Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu were healthy scratches.
The Spurs started; Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Doug McDermott & Jakob Poeltl
Just like you would expect from two sides who are playing their first game of competitive ball in a few months, the start of the game was messy as turnovers and missed shots were prevalent. San Antonio started to get going late with the help of two of their bench players, Drew Eubanks and Lonnie Walker IV. Both were able to come in and hit some outside shots, while helping increase the pace of the game. Drew like always brought physically to the contest. Pop used a 9-man rotation in the first quarter which included Bryn Forbes and Devin Vassell alongside of Drew and Lonnie. The Spurs were up 6 at the first quarter break; 24-18.
Doug McDermott was added to this team this off-season for his shooting and cutting ability, so it was kind of ironic that his first basket for the squad was on a floater in the lane. The second quarter showcased the Spurs ability to get into the paint, as Dejounte was able to glide past his defender over and over again. It was no surprise though when Keldon was attacking off the dribble, over powering his defender, and hitting and-1’s. That’s what the big body does. The Jazz found the Spurs defensive weakness as they continued to attack Bryn Forbes every time down the floor, and they were having success doing it. The Australian rookie Jock Landale made his first Spurs appearance in this quarter and he provided the Spurs with some silky passing, tough rebounding and an outside threat. Every time San Antonio got a stop on the Jazz you can bet that they were running down the floor in transition to make the best of that opportunity, and they made it count time after time. This helped the Spurs extend their lead into the half, they were in front; 49-38.
Coach Pop stuck with the same starting 5 in the second half and Dejounte Murray rewarded that, as he got red hot as he supplied a spark with 7 straight points as he attacked the paint at will. Unfortunately, the rest of the Spurs came out cold as they couldn’t finish anything going downhill or hit a shot from the outside. Keldon Johnson was much more comfortable to start this year shooting mid-range shots compared to last year, when he would either attack the basket or shoot threes. Adding this wrinkle into his game will make him a much more unpredictable player and tougher to guard. The Spurs grew and grew in confidence this game as every time they got out in transition they were getting a bucket. Derrick hit his first three of the game off the catch running in transition. Last year’s lottery pick Devin Vassell struggled with his shot early in the game, but he came to life in the third after he curled off a screen and slammed the ball onto a Utah defender for a huge dunk. Talking about lottery picks this was about the time Josh Primo entered the game. Primo took the point guard duties and showed the comfortability of a 10-year vet with his control of the game. He hit his first bucket on a three ball after Drew Eubanks found the 18-year-old wide open in the corner. Primo did get attacked on the other end of the court on his first two defensive possessions by Jazz rookie Jared Butler, who scored and then got fouled by the Spurs youngster. Though this didn’t faze the young gun as Primo was playing with supreme confidence, as he was knocking down jumpers, and getting into the lane for layups, before finding Bryn Forbes late in the quarter for an open transition three ball to put the Spurs up 87-61 heading into the final frame.
Keita Bates-Diop, Luka Samanic and Joe Wieskamp played in the 4th for the Spurs. So it was no surprise that there was a bit of sloppiness and some turnover problems early. Although Josh Primo continued to do what he does best, and that was to be aggressive with his decision making off of pick and rolls, as he scored 5 straight points including a ridiculous banked three. Luka Samanic coming into his third season and a possible pivotal one of his career started the quarter slow, before he showed some aggressive play, by attacking off the catch. Later on he hit a three when he shot the ball without hesitation, something that had been a problem in his game for a while, was no longer there tonight, he was decisive with the ball even if it sometimes didn’t pay off. Josh Primo was in the same mindset as he never relented even when this game became beyond a blow out, the young man wanted to make a statement, and he attacked and attacked all the way until the final horn rang. Spurs comfortably won 111-85.
- The Spurs transition game is just as advertised. The young guys ran at every opportunity, creating easy looks for one another and causing havoc for the opposition team to get back and into some sort of defensive shape. The Spurs half-court offense was better than expected as well, as they were able to penetrate and get to the basket, while they also created looks off of pick and rolls constantly. The only thing is that the Jazz were without a few of their top players, and when the Spurs face the best of teams they may very well find it tough to score in the half court. Although for now, we’ll have to wait and see, but tonight’s offensive performance was encouraging to say the least.
- Defense was elite. The Jazz scored 85 total, and had zero 25 points or more quarters. The defense was swarming as Jakob anchored the paint and every time the Jazz attacked, the Spurs perimeter players collapsed and swiped at the ball, forcing turnovers at their will.
- Funny Moment: After Bryn Forbes failed to close down and stop a Jordan Clarkson three with the shot clock running down, Pop chewed out the 1 time NBA champion. This almost felt like we were living back in 2019, ha! To be fair to Bryn after the timeout he came and got the three points right back!
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
For every game recap I do this year we are going to give out a SVP for the game, no matter if we win or lose. I will give out a third place, second place and first place. With first place getting 3 points, 2nd place getting 2 points and 3rd place getting 1 point. I’ll keep a tally and at the end of the year we can see who was the Spurs most valuable player !
So here it goes:
3rd Place (1 point) - Drew Eubanks: 15 minutes, 9 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
Drew was as physical as ever and made his impact known from the moment he stepped on the court.
2nd Place (2 points) - Dejounte Murray: 21 minutes, 17 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal.
Dejounte was Dejounte. He had that great stretch as the start of the 3rd but he was in control of the game the whole time he played, never forced anything and took what the defense gave him. It’s almost as if he’s played with a guy called DeMar DeRozan for the last few years.. oh wait.
1st Place (3 points) - Josh Primo: 18 minutes, 17 points, 1 assists, 1 block, 87.5%, 3⁄4 from 3.
No way you can tell me this performance is from an 18-year-old in his first NBA action. This was a sensational game considering the context. Primo was in control of every possession, and had such confidence that you wouldn’t find in many 18 year olds in the biggest basketball league in the world. Tremendous from Josh Primo. A star in the making?
Season Tally Leaderboard:
Josh Primo – 3pts
Dejounte Murray – 2pts
Drew Eubanks – 1pt
Next Game: @Pistons on Wednesday
The Spurs travel to Detroit to play the 1st overall pick Cade Cunningham and the Pistons in their 2nd of 5 preseason games. Go Spurs Go.