One day after the trade deadline the San Antonio Spurs new look lineup went into Atlanta and put on a show in a resounding 136-121 victory against the Hawks. Dejounte Murray ran the show for the first time since his backcourt partner, Derrick White, was traded to the Celtics. The newly All-Star point-guard didn’t seem to have a problem carrying even more of the load as he put on perhaps one of his best performances of his career, while breaking a few franchise records.
Dejounte’s new backcourt counterpart was second year pro, Devin Vassell, who also is the Spurs highest draft selection since Tim Duncan. Vassell opened the scoring with an instinctual cut to the rim before nailing a short jumper. Doug McDermott was hot early on in the ball-game with the Spurs doing a nice job of getting him the ball in space. As a whole, the team was on fire, they scored 27 points in the first six minutes, hitting all six of their threes. This wasn’t going to last forever, and when the Silver & Black put in their full bench unit they struggled to maintain the momentum that the starters created. Still, San Antonio ended the frame with their highest scoring quarter of the season while tying a franchise record eight threes in one period. The Spurs were up 43-29.
The Hawks responded with a quick start to the second, bringing the lead back under double digits. Pop brought Murray back to help stabilize the team with his scoring and his ability to find easy looks for his teammates. DJ and Zach Collins were working out of the pick-in-roll, something Dejounte and Jakob Poeltl have done extremely well this season. The wrinkle in this pairing is that Collins has the ability to shoot from the outside and therefore the Hawks defenders were staying with the backup center and this allowed Dejounte to work one on one. To end a nearly perfect half, the Spurs hit a half-court three from their most unlikeliest candidate, Jakob Poeltl. San Antonio went into the interval up 17.
The Spurs avoided a repeat of the start of the second by pushing the pace early in the third, catching the home squad’s transition defense napping. Dejounte Murray did everything he could to stay aggressive. Atlanta had been on a roll coming into this contest and that was down to their shooting, so it was no surprise that they relied on it to stay in the game. The 11-0 Atlanta run towards the end of the quarter happened when Dejounte was on the bench, so Pop put Murray back into the game instead of giving him his normal rest time. Fortunately for the Spurs, DJ settled the team down and the good guys kept a double digit lead going into the final quarter.
San Antonio’s bench had not been playing well up to this point in the game but they held their own at the start of the fourth. They didn’t allow Atlanta back into the contest, and when Murray checked in, he continued his incredible performance by getting timely buckets and opening up the floor for others. The Hawks were making just enough shots to keep Pop from emptying the bench, until a Dejounte steal and slam all but ended the game. Atlanta’s bench did outperform the Spurs, but it didn’t matter because the Silver & Black came away with a comfortable 136-121 win.
- Shooters Shoot. After not being able to score the ball against Cleveland to start the rodeo road trip, the Spurs shot the lights out in this one. 18/32 (56.2%) from three as they rained triples in Atlanta. Seven different players hit at least one, with five hitting two or more. San Antonio generated good looks from the outside by playing with pace and moving the ball quickly, thanks to the play of Murray. Now we’ll see if this type of shooting performance can continue for the rest of the RRT, starting against the Pelicans in the second night of a back to back.
- No White, No Problem? This question is to be determined, as one game is not going to tell us if San Antonio is better off with Devin Vassell in the starting group instead of Derrick. But the first look without him definitely showed some promise. Devin is a better shooter than White and he can create better off the bounce jumpers for himself. Derrick is obviously the better playmaker and probably slightly better in man to man defense, although off-ball defense you may give a slight edge to Vassell. Either way it’s going to be fun to see a big sample size of a Murray-Vassell backcourt. Derrick did make his debut for the Celtics at the same time this game was going on and White did play pretty well and it seems as if they Celtics are happy to have him. Ball out Derrick!
- Four New Players. San Antonio do have four new players on the roster after the deadline. None of the four were at the game in Atlanta but are expected to join them in the next two games. Well, besides Goran Dragic who is likely getting bought out. But Tomas Satoransky will be with the Silver & Black against the Pelicans (not sure if he’ll be active) and the two former Celtics, Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford are expected to join up in Chicago before the Bulls game. With the lacklustre game the bench had against the Hawks, having a few more rotation players avaliable will help strengthen the bench while giving Pop more options and versatility with lineups.
Play of the Game
The most casual looking half-court shot of all-time?
HOLY COYOTE‼️— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 12, 2022
Jak at the BUZZER pic.twitter.com/Od3qWToHwg
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
3rd place (1 point): Devin Vassell | 28mins, 20 points, 5 rebounds, 9/13, 2/2 from 3, +40
The first start for Devin Vassell in the post Derrick White trade and he played extremely well. He did so in front of his family and friends as Devin is from the state of Georgia. He looked supremely confident every time he rose up to shoot and even had a few highlight plays throughout the game. This dunk in particular:
Devin was a game high +40 and the eye test was telling you it wasn’t a lie. Vassell got after it on both ends of the floor and the more DJ and Devo start together the scarier it’s going to be for opposition teams to handle.
2nd place (2 points): Keldon Johnson | 32mins, 26 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 6/8 from 3
Did someone say sharp-shooter? In the first game Keldon has played since getting ‘snubbed’ (if you think he did) from the 3pt contest he put on a clinic on how to shoot from the outside. Yes, a lot of his threes are stand-still triples but at least he is making them at a high clip. The next progression in his outside game would be to shoot more coming off the dribble, but for now KJ is having success with this, and there is no reason to mess with that right now.
1st place (3 points): Dejounte Murray | 32mins, 32pts, 15asts, 10rbs, 4stl, 61.1% fgs, 8/9 fts
Two broken records, a triple double and a win for the All-Star, but this just feels like the norm now for Dejounte Murray. The point-guard now has the most triple-doubles in the history of the franchise, with 15 of them. He also became the first Spur ever to have a 30+ points and 15+ assist game and it just seemed so easy for him. He used his size well when attacking Trae Young and was able to get to the line nine times, which is a big improvement to his usual free throw numbers. He shot the ball effectively and efficiently and was running the offense the whole time. He is going to have to carry a bigger load now that Derrick has departed but in his first game since then, it didn’t look like too much of an issue for Murray. He is putting up incredible numbers but I’m telling you, the eye test is so much more special. The Spurs would be lost without him, he is their point-guard, he is their engine, he is their ALL-STAR.
1st - Dejounte Murray - 87pts
2nd - Jakob Poeltl & Derrick White- 51pts
3rd - Devin Vassell - 38pts
4th - Keldon Johnson - 36pts
5th - Lonnie Walker IV - 19pts
6th - Doug McDermott - 14pts
7th - Bryn Forbes - 12pts
8th - Thaddeus Young - 11pts
9th - Keita Bates-Diop - 5pts
10th - Jock Landale - 4pts
11th - Josh Primo - 3pts
12th - Drew Eubanks & Tre Jones - 2pts
13th - Devontae Cacok - 1pt
Next Game: @ Pelicans on Saturday
No time to rest for the Spurs because they play in a back to back against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pels were another team that were active around the trade deadline and San Antonio will get their first look at them as they look for their second straight win.