The Spurs blew out Utah in their preseason opener, 111-85, riding their versatile defense and a scorching second-half scoring display to rally past the Western Conference’s top seed from a year ago.
Dejounte Murray led the Silver and Black with 17 points, three rebounds, and three assists, matched only by Josh Primo, who scored 17 points off the bench. Jared Butler paced the Jazz with 16 points.
- San Antonio and Utah were unsurprisingly rusty in the first frame of their preseason opener, going a combined 14-of-51 from the field. Both teams played relatively stingy defense, though a majority of their misses came on wide-open looks. While there were moments of sound, fundamental basketball, both teams could use some more time on the court to build traction with their teammates.
- Lonnie Walker and Derrick White seem to be the most logical beneficiaries of DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills departing from San Antonio this offseason. However, their influx of touches didn’t exactly result in much productivity on Monday night. That said, you can’t read deeply into a preseason outing, let alone the first preseason outing of the year. Both players left their mark on the defensive end, and if their offense comes around, the Spurs should perform even better against the Pistons.
- It was tough treading on the offensive end for Devin Vassell, who missed all five of his first-half shots and traveled for good measure. Despite his struggles shooting the ball, Vassell had no trouble making life difficult for opposing ballhandlers. The 2020 lottery pick looked spry coming off the bench, mirroring his assignments and cutting them off before they could get to their spots. Don’t be surprised if the slender swingman plays a significant role in San Antonio improving their mediocre defensive numbers from a year ago.
- Like most of the players who took the hardwood tonight, Keldon Johnson started slow. Thankfully, the big-bodied forward picked up the pace and gained momentum throughout the second quarter. The third-year Spur barreled through Royce O’Neale for his first points of the evening, drawing a foul and finishing the play with a floater off the glass. And it looks like Johnson picked up a few tricks from DeMar DeRozan, showing off a newfound fadeaway jumper that was eerily reminiscent of his former All-Star teammate.
- Dejounte Murray also came out of the gates a bit sluggish, but that didn’t keep the sixth-year floor general from hitting his stride. He opened the third quarter with an acrobatic layup over Udoka Azubuike, continued the fun with one of his signature steal-and-slams, kept things going from his sweet spot in the midrange, and capped his hot streak by finishing a tough floater through contact. San Antonio’s longest-tenured player looked comfortable assuming the de facto role of the go-to scorer, and he ended his outing with a game-high 17 points.
- Jakob Poeltl and Drew Eubanks picked up right where they left off a season ago, providing stout rim protection while cleaning the glass on both ends. Poeltl notched San Antonio’s first two baskets of the night, and Eubanks nailed a catch-and-shoot three-pointer, an area of his game he’s been working on all Summer. The big men know their role, and they seem prepared to defend their spots within the rotation.
- Jock Landale made his unofficial Spurs debut, checking into the game for the first time nearly halfway through the second quarter. The Australian center showed a little chemistry with Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, confidently stepping into a pick-and-pop triple and slamming home a perfectly placed pocket pass. He also showed some offensive versatility, delivering an exquisite bounce pass to a cutting Doug McDermott for an and-one opportunity that put San Antonio up by double digits.
- Josh Primo didn’t get in on the action until the third quarter, but he wasn’t shy once he stepped onto the hardwood. The 18-year-old rookie looked more like a seasoned veteran with the amount of poise he showed off the pine. The slithery combo guard got hot in a hurry, racking up eight points in his first six minutes. He went a perfect 3-of-3 from the field, oozing confidence as he seamlessly slid into San Antonio’s second unit. Not only did Primo exceed expectations in his Silver and Black debut, but he led the team in scoring, recording a game-high 17 points on an almost-flawless 7-of-8 line from the field.
- Bryn Forbes was who we remembered him to be. The undersized three-point specialist knocked down triples running off screens, hit a couple of mid-range jumpers, and kept the ball moving. His defense didn’t look any better than it did when we last saw him donning Silver and Black, but his deficiencies were less pronounced next to Dejounte and Derrick rather than Patty and Marco. And his second stint in San Antonio should go smoother than his first go-round as long as head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t trot him out for 25 minutes per game.
- Keita Bates-Diop, Joe Wieskamp, and Luka Samanic eventually found their way onto the court, though they were mostly an afterthought in their limited run. Wieskamp and Bates-Diop fighting for scraps shouldn’t come as a shock, but time may be running out for Samanic to carve out a role in San Antonio. While the former 19th overall pick hasn’t seen consistent minutes since the Spurs selected him in 2019, his flashes of on-ball skills and perimeter defense remain intriguing. Perhaps all he needs is a shot to prove himself, and hopefully, that comes with the youth movement taking hold this season.
- Doug McDermott provided the spacing and off-ball movement that NBA fans have come to expect out of him. The veteran sharpshooter failed to hit any three-pointers, but he kept defenders turned around as he cut backdoor and relocated along the perimeter. San Antonio’s prized free agency signing may not be an All-Star-caliber addition, but his skill set should help ease their youngsters into increased usage rates across the board.
- There have been rumblings that Al-Farouq Aminu and Thaddeus Young might not make it to San Antonio’s season opener, and neither veteran forward suited up for the Spurs on Monday. Young has seen his name mentioned in trade rumors centered around the Phoenix Suns, who could make for an optimal trade partner if they’re willing to part way with a first-rounder.
- When head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Zach Collins is on track to make his return sometime after Christmas, it seemed like San Antonio would enter the preseason with a virtually spotless bill of health. Sadly, Tre Jones ended up on the latest injury report with an ankle sprain, putting a potential breakout campaign on pause. The second-year point guard was spectacular for the Spurs during Summer League, turning heads with his improved play. There’s no word on the severity of his sprain, so the Silver and Black faithful will have to wait with bated breath until he’s ready to go again.
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