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Heat make short work of short-handed Spurs

The Spurs were as icy as the San Antonio roads in their make-up game vs. the Heat.

NBA: Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

If it was any warmer inside the arena than the freezing temperatures outside, the Spurs’ shooters sure didn’t show it in their 112-95 loss to the Miami Heat. Aside from Derrick White, who was well on his way to a new career high with 22 points through 3 quarters, the Spurs shot 33% from the field as the Heat suffocated the paint and watched the Spurs’ assault the rim from everywhere else. Led by Tyler Herro’s 24 points off the bench and Bam Adebayo’s 18 points and 11 rebounds, the Heat made short work of the short-handed Spurs.

As much as the Spurs missed Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl on offense, their absence on the other end may have been even more glaring. Thaddeus Young and Drew Eubanks struggled to control the interior, and the Spurs perimeter defense broke down repeatedly due to miscommunication and a lack of familiarity, especially during the Heat’s 3rd quarter 18-5 run that all but put the game out of reach.

Neither team got off to a fast start, with both squads taking a handful of minutes to get going. Only Adebayo hit the floor at full speed, scoring the Heat’s first three buckets. Derrick finally broke the seal for the Spurs with a three pointer on their 5th possession. It was clear right from the jump that the Spurs were going to struggle to score inside unless they could hit enough threes to loosen up the Miami defense. On the other end, the Spurs were just feisty enough to make life difficult on the Heat. Unfortunately, that changed when Derrick went to the bench, and the Heat turned a 5-point deficit into a 2-point lead over the last four minutes of the quarter, ending the 1st up 21-19.

That pattern continued into the 2nd, with the Heat building on their lead while Derrick was on the bench. After returning in the midst of the two teams exchanging a flurry of three pointers midway through the quarter, Derrick hit a pair of free throws and a driving floater to cut the lead to 6, but that was as close as they would get. He kept on scoring and finished the first half with 19 points on 6/9 shooting, but the Spurs were still down 57-47.

The 3rd quarter got off to a sloppy start, with the Spurs committing 3 fouls in the first 3 minutes and turning the ball over to boot. Still, they managed to cut the lead to 6 one more time on the strength of a Tre Jones and-one. But that’s when the Spurs lost the thread. Their foul troubles and inability to get to the rim compounded into a cold stretch that coincided with some forceful Miami play leading to an 18-5 run that left the Spurs staring up at a 22 point deficit by the time the period was over.

The last stanza was mostly mop up duty as Gregg Popovich waived the white tail and rested what few rotation players he had left ahead tomorrow night’s game against the Rockets.

Game Notes

  • Missing both Jakob and Jock Landale, the Spurs were facing a distinctly uphill battle on the interior right from the tip. Thad held his own for the most part, creating several loose balls and grabbing 2 steals while pulling down 5 offensive rebounds. Drew Eubanks brought his usual energy to the mix and for a couple of brief stretches to put his imprint on the game with blocks, boards and dunks. But neither of them were up to the task of anchoring the defense while simultaneously trying to contain Adebayo.
  • It’s hard not to consider how much different this game might have been had the Heat been able to find enough players when it was originally scheduled on December 29th. The Spurs were rolling and the Heat were obviously short-handed. This time, the tables were turned. The Heat were coming off a 3-game losing streak but had their projected starting five on the floor for the first time in weeks, while the Spurs were missing their best two players, another starter and a key piece of the rotation.
  • There were several possessions that died on the vine in the hands of Tre and Lonnie Walker IV for entirely different reasons. Tre appeared hesitant to call his own number and frequently held the ball in a single spot as if he was waiting for something to happen while precious seconds ticked off the shot clock. Some plays call for that kind of patience, but the Spurs didn’t appear to be running anything in particular at the time. Lonnie, on the other hand, suffered from having just enough explosion to get past his defender but not enough to get a clean shot in the paint and found himself in the air with no options several times. It’s not uncommon for players to press when their shot isn’t falling, especially when the offense it struggling as a whole, but it wasn’t pretty to watch.

Play of the game

SVP awards

3rd (1 point) - Devontae Cacok | 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks

Sure, it was all in garbage time, and sure he only played 9 minutes, but Devontae stands out on the court. A little like Keldon Johnson, he always seems to find himself near the action and has a knack for making a play when he is. It’s unclear what role he might have with the team, but he’s awfully fun to watch late in games like this. Plus, everybody else had an actively bad game on one end of the floor or both, so here we are. Welcome to the board, Devontae!

2nd place (2 points) - Thaddeus Young | 7 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals

Thad has played in just three games over the last seven weeks, but je hit the court ready to compete. He battled Adebayo inside, facilitated the offense and put up a tidy little stat line in 24 minutes of action.

1st place (3 points) - Derrick White | 22 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists

Single game plus-minus means nothing in the long term, but Derrick’s +2 on the night — the only Spur who played in the first 3 quarters to end up on the right side of 0 in that particular measurement — says exactly what it ought to. The Spurs played the Heat to a draw in his minutes but didn’t have enough firepower or a staunch enough defense to hang on when he went to the bench. It’s a shame the game wasn’t closer, because he would almost certainly have set a new career scoring record with 10 more minutes on the court.

Season leaderboard

1st - Dejounte Murray - 83pts

2nd - Derrick White - 49pts

3rd - Jakob Poeltl - 48pts

4th - Devin Vassell - 34pts

5th - Keldon Johnson - 31pts

6th - Lonnie Walker IV - 19pts

7th - Doug McDermott - 14pts

8th - Bryn Forbes - 12pts

9th - Thaddeus Young - 11pts

10th - Keita Bates-Diop - 5pts

11th - Jock Landale - 4pts

12th - Josh Primo - 3pts

13th - Drew Eubanks & Tre Jones - 2pts

15th - Devontae Cacok - 1pt

Next game: vs. Houston Rockets on Friday

The Spurs will be right back in action tomorrow night in their last game at home before heading out on their annual Rodeo Road Trip for the rest of February. Facing the team with the worst record in the West should provide them with as good a chance as they could want to hit the road on a high note.