COVID restrictions and protocols finally hit the San Antonio Spurs this week but most of the rest of the week looked promising and even exciting.
Week 6: After the postponement (and the rest it afforded), the Spurs veterans came back ready to play in a wild game. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan led the team (20 and 21 points respectively). Dejounte Murray and Devin Vassell continued on their string of steals (DJ now has 27 for the season and Devin has 23), and they along with Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker IV have been covering the opponents’ best players with some success.
The momentum of the win versus the Celtics led to a streak-busting win against the Denver Nuggets in the first game of a SEGABABA. DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray led the way with a combined 56 points. DJ has been showing that he may finally be becoming a consistent finisher at the rim. Keldon “Big Body” Johnson wrecked havoc every chance he got and was making Manu-like plays. And while Jakob Poeltl didn’t stuff the stat sheet, he did plenty to disrupt Nikola Jokic’s game. It was also Derrick White’s return and he looked good.
But alas, the Spurs have continued to struggle with the second games of back-to-backs and they lost to the well rested and hungry (due to COVID protocols postponements) Memphis Grizzlies. Even though the Grizzlies only had ten guys, those ten played loose, free and aggressive. The aggressiveness must have gotten under the skin of some tired Spurs because DeRozan had one of his worst games (scoring only 5 points, and getting 1 rebound and 1 assist). Several of the young core had a great night that just weren’t enough to overcome DeRozan’s bad night. Murray had a great game with 15 points and 2 steals, but White showed he was ready to return with 18 points (high scorer), 50% from 3 and another 2 steals. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the frenzied play of the Griz. Hopefully it is enough to give the Silver and Black the motivation they need to come back and smack the Grizzlies (who they will be competing against to get into the playoffs).
Last week: P1-2-1 (11-9) — @ Pelicans - Postponed (P1); 110-106 vs Celtics; 119-109 vs Nuggets; 129-112 vs Grizzlies (loss)
Andrew Lopez, ESPN - 13 (Last Week: 13)
San Antonio had its first postponement of the season against New Orleans last Monday; but after all tests for players came back negative, it returned to action on Wednesday with a win over Boston. The Spurs also welcomed Derrick White back to the rotation Friday night. White had only played in one game this season — on New Year’s Day — because of two separate injuries to his toe. In his return against the Grizzlies, White led the Spurs with 18 points in just 22 minutes off the bench.
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports - 7 (Last Week: 9)
San Antonio picked up big wins over the Celtics and Nuggets to start the week, then fell to the hungry Grizzlies in their first game in nearly two weeks. Seven players averaged double-figure scoring this week, and Derrick White scored 18 points in his return to the court on Saturday. DeMar DeRozan shot 71 percent from the field this week, but took only 9.3 shots per game after averaging nearly 14 field goal attempts per game this season.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com - 11 (Last Week: 15)
Derrick White played in just his second game of the season on Saturday, returning from a four-week absence to score 18 points in less than 22 minutes. His 3-pointer with a little more than five minutes left put the Spurs in position to make a closing run like they did against both Boston and Denver earlier in the week. But the Grizzlies scored 12 points on their next five possessions in what ended up being the Spurs’ worst defensive game (129 points allowed on 100 possessions) of the season.
White and Dejounte Murray each got contract extensions, and the third of the three No. 29 picks on the Spurs’ roster is also looking like a keeper. Keldon Johnson has scored in double-figures in 10 straight games, totaling 37 in the Spurs’ wins over the Celtics and Nuggets. The 21-year-old has shot just 6-for-23 (26%) from 3-point range over that 10-game stretch, but he’s been pretty relentless in attacking the basket. The Boston game featured him shaking Marcus Smart before a drive through traffic, grabbing an offensive board over three Celtics, and a tight crossover on Jaylen Brown (see below) that led to the game-tying dunk with a little more than a minute to go. Of course, Johnson has passed on just 14.5% of his drives, the lowest rate among 109 players who’ve averaged at least five drives per game.
The Spurs are in the heart of the play-in race and the loss to the Grizzlies on Saturday was just the start of a stretch where they’re playing five of six games against teams (Memphis, Houston and Golden State) also in the 7-10 range in the West.
Mo Dahkil, Bleacher Report - 11 (Last Week: 12)
The Spurs had a three-game winning streak with wins over Boston and Denver entering Saturday. San Antonio looks much tougher than anyone expected. Gregg Popovich should get mentioned as an early candidate for Coach of the Year.
During the winning streak, San Antonio got great playmaking from DeMar DeRozan, who averaged 8.3 assists per game. On top of DeRozan’s playmaking, the Spurs are seeing Dejounte Murray grow as a player. He averaged 16.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists during the winning streak.
San Antonio is knocking on the door of the top 10 and would have made it in this week’s rankings if it was not for the loss to the Grizzlies on Saturday.
Michael Shapiro, SI.com - ?? (Last Week: 19)
Not published yet.
Kevin O’Conner, TheRinger.com - ?? (Last Week: NA)
Not published yet.
While the week started with the first COVID postponement for the Spurs, the next two games provided some excellent entertainment and basketball. But what seems to be the Spurs weakness came back on the second night of a back-to-back. Did the analysts punish the Silver and Black too much or not enough. Let us know what you think, Pounders. Or has their chemistry and play improved enough to get some grace.