The last time the San Antonio Spurs were this high up in the standings they played a mini-series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Both of those games were resounding disappointments. The last time the Spurs played the Golden State Warriors it was also a resounding disappointment. This was a perfect opportunity for the team to redeem themselves. And redeem themselves they did.
Going into the game tonight the Spurs would be without two of their starters. LaMarcus Aldridge and Lonnie Walker IV. Although some might say that the lineup of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, DeMar Derozan, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Peoltl is an improvement, and as far as the eye test goes it sure was.
Early on the energy just seemed different. Different as in; there was energy. Guys were flying around on defense jumping passing lanes, blocking shots, and showing second and third efforts on drives and kick outs. It was really fun to watch. This is quite the contrary of their usual slow starts, the Spurs played the Warriors fairly even throughout the first half of the first quarter. It wasn’t until the final six minutes, when Steph Curry and Kelly Oubre Jr. kept hitting threes, that the Warriors pulled away a little.
Defending Steph Curry looks exhausting. Though that that really is the only way to do it. The Spurs did their best to deny him the ball and switch on every screen he tried to run around. It takes a total team effort and great communication to get the job done. Although it wasn’t perfect I think the defense tonight did their best to make Curry earn everything he got. You’re not going to stop him, but you can at least make him work hard.
The Spurs started the second quarter down 9 and the Warriors sat Steph and Draymond. This was their chance to cut into the lead, but that isn’t what happened. With their best two players on the bench the Warriors not only held onto their lead, they increased it. At it’s largest it was 14. When Steph and Draymond came back in it was cut back down to 10.
This was one of those games that could have gotten really out of hand. For a long stretch in the quarter San Antonio had a tough time hitting shots. Then with Curry coming back into the game the lead could have easily ballooned to at least 20. The Spurs’ defensive effort was what kept them in the game. They never allowed Golden State to pull away and kept forcing them into turnovers. By the time the game ended the Warriors had 20 of them.
My favorite scenario in the second quarter was when Dejounte got one of his 8 steals and started a 3-on-1 fast break. He tried to pass the ball to Devin Vassell, but Devin fumbled it. The Warriors recovered and looked like they had a layup of their own, but it was blocked by Jakob Poeltl. Murray chased down the loose ball and the Spurs were off to their end of the court again. This time the result was a Derozan assist to Poeltl for 2 points that cut the lead down to 3.
Never give up, never surrender!
San Antonio started the third quarter down by 5, but went on an 11-5 run to take their first lead of the game. From then on the teams would continue to trade the lead back and forth. The Warriors ended the quarter on a 6-0 run to take an 80-78 lead into the 4th quarter.
I think now would be a good time to shoehorn in some of my random notes I took in the 3rd quarter.
Jakob Poeltl has really good hands. I may be wrong here, but I can’t really remember him bobbling too many passes. In this game, there were two bounce passes he caught while rolling down the lane that at first I thought were bad passes or at least unnecessary risks, but he handled them both and scored each time.
Dejounte Murray was everywhere tonight. In addition to his 8 steals, he had 10 rebounds. I think his steals inspired Vassell to go after even more steals than usual. Can you imagine Murray, Vassell and White on the floor at the same time poking at the ball every time it’s dribbled or passed and just being general nuisances? Being able to take those risks is because they have Poeltl behind them to protect the rim. Fun for us. Not so fun for everyone else.
The Warriors are really good at cutting to the basket off ball. In just the 3rd quarter I counted at least 4 backdoor cuts for layups. The Spurs did everything else well so I’ll give it a pass for tonight.
The Warriors sat Steph and Draymond again to start the 4th quarter and this time the Spurs took advantage. With the Warrior stars on the bench San Antonio took their biggest lead of the game 93-86. When Steph Curry came back in he proved why you have to take advantage of the Warriors while he is out because as soon as he hit the floor he scored 5 quick points to reduce the lead to 2 and we had a ballgame again.
In the last 4 minutes I don’t think the Spurs took a 2-point shot. I could be wrong, but they threw up a lot of threes to end the game. Luckily enough some of them went in. The most impressive one being Dejounte Murray’s dagger with 12.6 seconds left to put the Spurs up by 4. The shot clock was running down, he tried to drive but slipped and somehow recovered to hit a step back 3 from the corner. This really was his night.
Steph tried to conjure up some magic at the end, but it wasn’t enough and the Spurs won 105-100.
Also you should look up Draymond Green throwing up a half court shot at the end of regulation because he thought he might be fouled by Derrick White.
- How do you not talk about Dejounte Murray here. This may have been his best game as a pro and it really looked like he took on the challenge of facing Steph on a personal level. His shooting was an efficient 10-19 including 2-5 from 3-point range for 27 points. He almost had a triple double with 10 rebounds and 8 steals. Plus he threw in 4 assists for good measure. If this is the Dejounte we get from now on everybody better watch out.
- On the flip side Derrick White continues to struggle with his shooting since he’s come back from his toe injury. Today he only had 2 points on 1-11 shooting and 0-5 from 3. At least he’s not forcing anything and I expect his shot to find itself again fairly soon. He still plays solid defense. This team is going to be a handful when he gets his stroke back.
- Jakob Poeltl has to be the starting center from now on, right? He had a superb game. True, the Warriors were without any big men outside of Green, but the job still had to be done. Jakob sure did do it. He had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds (3 of them offensive). He was 7-9 from the floor and had 4 blocks. Was this his best game as a pro?
Tuesday, February 9th vs. Golden State Warriors @ 7:30pm
Can the Spurs make it 2 in a row on the last game of their homestand?