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What We Learned from the Spurs win over the Pelicans

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A shorthanded San Antonio squad bounces back in their return from the Rodeo Road Trip.

New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs staved off a furious fourth-quarter comeback from Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans to claim their first victory since their ten-day hoops hiatus. Although the good guys found themselves severely shorthanded due to the same health and safety protocols that postponed four games, they rose to the occasion and secured vital stops down the stretch.

The Silver and Black improved to 17-12, climbing five games above .500 for the second time this season and holding onto fifth place in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. While it wasn’t a dominant win by any means, San Antonio showed the value of depth and determination. And the immediate impact of adding DeMar DeRozan back into the lineup was obvious as the veteran swingman put the team on his back and carried them to the win.

Observations

  • DeMar DeRozan has only continued to garner my respect since joining the organization in 2018. Though the high-scoring swingman didn’t ask for a trade to San Antonio, he has conducted himself as a complete professional in every aspect, never once becoming a headache for PATFO. DeMar has added a new wrinkle to his game each offseason, mentored several young Spurs, and been a constant source of reliable offense for a team that has often been devoid of a legitimate foundational building block. Despite losing his father while quarantining in Charlotte a little over a week ago, DeRozan dominated the Pelicans to the tune of 32 points and 11 assists on Saturday night. Not only did DeMar display an inspiring amount of perseverance, but he showed why his All-Star snub was so irritating for Spurs fans. Should any other players pull out of the midseason exhibition, DeMar DeRozan should be the first person the NBA calls on for a replacement.
  • Resilient, that’s the one word I would use to describe this rendition of the Silver and Black. And that resilience is one of the primary identifiers that distinguish them from the team San Antonio fielded a season ago. Both of them faced a ton of tightly contested matchups and relinquished more than their fair share of double-digit leads, though the 2020-2021 Spurs have done an excellent job of avoiding complete crunch time implosions. The Spurs went 13-20 in two-possession games last year and have turned that into 7-5 this season. Would fans probably prefer comfortable victories to a handful of nailbiters? Sure, though they’re unlikely to complain too much as long as San Antonio isn’t on the receiving end of too many last-minute heartbreakers.
  • Dejounte Murray has been outstanding over his last six appearances. The fourth-year floor general is averaging 20.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists per game on a strikingly efficient 50% shooting from the field. To put it plainly, Dejounte has been balling like an All-Star since he dropped 27 points and drained the go-ahead three-point dagger on the Warriors earlier this month, and his 2.7 steals per game have made him one of the premier two-way players in the NBA over this stretch. Murray recorded 18 points, six boards, and seven dimes against New Orleans and their suffocating defensive backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball. And the stringy point guard is proving his doubters wrong while exceeding the lofty expectations of his contract extension. Here’s to hoping Derrick White joins Dejounte in silencing naysayers once he returns from health and safety protocols.
  • There were countless takeaways from San Antonio’s previous outing, but one of the things that stood out to me was just how much of their roster has spent time in the G-League at some point throughout their career. A record 45% of players on start-of-season NBA rosters were former G-League participants, but that number skyrockets to 68.8% for the Spurs . Tre Jones, Quinndary Weatherspoon, Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson, Keita Bates-Diop, Drew Eubanks, Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White, Jakob Poeltl, Dejounte Murray, and Patty Mills have all participated in the league’s developmental program. And the Silver and Black remain one of the best franchises at utilizing this phenomenal resource. Luka and Tre thrived with the Austin Spurs before PATFO called the pair back up to San Antonio. Despite limited minutes, both appear to be serviceable NBA players with potentially bright futures ahead of them. Many once viewed a trip to the G-League as a demotion to no man’s land, but the Spurs have done a ton to alter that perception.