The San Antonio Spurs end the preseason with a 3-2 record after dismantling the Houston Rockets in front of a noisy preseason crowd.
Coach Pop played the most minutes on Friday with his starters and key rotating players this preseason, to prepare them for Game 1 of Wednesday’s regular season. Although Pop also had to make his guys play a bit more than usual because San Antonio ended up a bit short, as Zach Collins, Al-Farouq Aminu, Tre Jones and Jock Landale were all out tonight due to of injuries. Thaddeus Young was a scratch too, but it looks like the older Spur has just been rested.
Spurs – Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Doug McDermott & Jakob Poeltl
Rockets – Kevin Porter Jr, Jalen Green, Ja’Sean Tate, Christian Wood et Alpheren Sengun
The game at the start was weak as both teams struggled to find a good appearance in the half court as the Rockets turnovers brought them to a halt. For the Spurs, they looked early for their new sniper Doug McDermott. McBuckets made 4 shots in the first 4 minutes 1??3 from three. Spurs were able to create easy looks when they came out in transition, but seemed jumbled up in the half court, with players constantly clashing. Houston began to enter the competition with their practice and kick game, but the Spurs matched their efforts in their defensive rotations. Keldon was causing a problem at the Rockets’ perimeter and home defense by pushing back the hold as Rockets defenders couldn’t keep him in front and it allowed Johnson to reach the edge and go all the way to the line. Unfortunately, KJ didn’t have his free throw hat on today as he missed a huge 6 in his 30 minutes of play. The Spurs played a good first defensive period with just one problem, which was on the glass. It wasn’t surprising with the fact that the Rockets were effectively playing two crosses, and Wood in particular was eating offensive rebounds, he had 5 in the first half alone. Lonnie Walker stepped into the game and provided an instant spark as he got under way while creating for others, including when he pushed hard into the defense teeth before delivering a blind pass. Keita Bates-Diop’s chest for a wide open three. Lonnie congratulated himself by giving himself three points the next time he stopped for a transition three. San Antonio controlled the first period and led 30-21.
To start the second, the Spurs found themselves a little lost defensively, but it was mainly because of the unity on the ground. Forbes, McDermott and Lonnie aren’t elite defenders and making sure there are always 3-4 top defensemen on the pitch should be a priority for Pop this year. A man who is an elite defenseman is Derrick White, and it was at the other end of the field where he was making a big difference in second frame. Two great cuts from the Colorado native gave him 4 easy points with the distribution coming from Jakob and Doug. The Spurs knew who Houston’s key man was tonight and that’s why they were constantly in Christian Wood’s grill, but for the most part it didn’t matter as Wood hit a number of jumpers. difficult. Spurs ‘perimeter defenders did a good job channeling the Rockets’ workouts into either Jakob or Drew’s body, and the big men hit the shots left, right and center because of it. Dejounte was having fun as well – creating buckets for himself from the mid-range and in the paint. The best part of the Spurs offense was their ball movement and bullet cuts, it opened up tons of threes, and Spurs took advantage with 3 starters (Dejounte, Derrick, Doug) hitting two threes each in first halftime to help San Antonio to a 16-point lead at the interval.
After hitting two threes in the first half, Dejounte wasn’t about to back down any further and he managed another triple early in the third period, before finding Doug in transition for his third three of the game. The Spurs were running at full speed. 2021 Rockets draft pick and No. 2 overall selection Jalen Green started to find his place this half, as he used his much-talked-about explosiveness to create buckets and fouls on practices until at the rim. Keldon and Derrick did a good job keeping him safe, but the calls just didn’t work out at the start of the third. Then, after another practice from Jalen Green and an offensive call, Doug McDermott was actually called for a technician when he slapped the post. It might just be a preseason game, but it’s really nice to see the players worrying and showing frustration when they think it’s warranted. It didn’t affect the way Doug played though, as he was open every time in transition and it paid off with his 3 balls. Pop throughout the preseason did a good job always having one of White or Murray on the floor at the same time to execute the offense, and when Murray sat in the third, White really did. took over with clever play and creation of moves. This allowed the score to soar, until Pop could once again get them both in at the same time. Devin Vassell was the only Spur to play in the first half who didn’t score a point, but in the second half he was a monster – wreaking havoc on both sides, collecting passes all over the field in defense, leading to the hoop and making offensive contact and bouncing like crazy on both sides of the court.
Spurs were leading 96-79 to start the 4th, but that didn’t prompt Pop to withdraw his starters as he played them well in the quarter. Dejounte is emerging as a true playmaker with his way of seeing the pitch and he showed it when he backed down to halfway, probed the defense, then threw a blind pass to a hand to White for a corner three. A thing of beauty. Pop must have been so impressed that he pulled Dejounte up and let him rest early, as Primo first entered the evening. Josh Primo was trying to replicate Dejounte’s passes as on his first contact he headed for the bucket before kicking the corner for a Keldon splash. Keldon must have gained confidence because the next time on the floor he drove and returned a one-handed circus shot that not only went down to two points but whistled. The Spurs couldn’t hurt tonight, and after Bryn Forbes hit a three on a Keldon transfer and the Rockets called a timeout, Pop cleared the bench. Primo and Wieskamp used most of their minutes as they also impressed as Spurs took the win with 28 points; 126-98.
- Pop went with a ten-man rotation tonight, which included Keita Bates-Diop as Backup 4 instead of Thad Young. Maybe it was because they were putting it down just tonight, but maybe an exchange could be on the horizon. Keep in mind that Spurs have yet to cut or trade one more player before the start of the season.
- Spurs shot the 3 ball with so much confidence tonight. Nobody expects Spurs to be in the top 10 3-point shooting teams, but they can certainly shoot like they did tonight. 8 lines in the first half and 15/39 throughout the evening. 39% may not be realistic every night, but if they shoot with confidence and avoid hesitation, they can be an average 3-point shooting team at worst.
- Rebounding misfortunes? The final count of 59-53 didn’t look too bad for Spurs, but in chunks they were getting killed on the glass. They gave up 16 offensive rebounds in total, while Wood and Sengun both had double-digit boards. Spurs won’t face too many teams taking on 2 great men together, so maybe there is nothing to worry about but something to watch out for for sure.
The effort, the dunk, the ovation.
Spurs valuable player (SVP)
Honorable mention – Devin Vassell (27 minutes, 13 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks)
Devin had a very good second half, but was a bit calm in the first and that’s why he’s missing tonight. Has been great on both sides of the pitch as usual, and will surely win some big minutes this season.
3e place (1 point) – Doug McDermott (19 minutes, 16 points, 4 passes, 4/9 trios)
That’s exactly why Doug was brought to San Antonio, his 3-point shot, off-ball moves and veteran leadership will all be essential for Spurs this season. Dougie saved his best preseason performance to last and can now hopefully start the season playing like tonight.
2e place (2 points) – Derrick White (29 minutes, 20 points, 6 passes décisives, 4 rebonds, 2 interceptions)
Derrick like Doug found his rhythm in this game. Hitting 3 of his 7 triples, while shooting 57% from the ground. White played well when Dejounte was on the bench, but also did a good job being involved in the attack when both were on the ground. The defense was always so elitist, this Derrick White is the best Derrick White.
1st place (3 points) – Dejounte Murray (30 minutes, 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 3)
I am at a loss for words to describe Dejounte. He gives his all in every game, preseason, regular season, playoffs, it’s the same for him, he plays as if it was his last game. DJ was running the show tonight, in transition, in half-court, in defense, it all starts with number 5. If Spurs can do it all this season in terms of wins, it all starts and ends with Dejounte Murray.
FINAL classification of the pre-season count:
1er – Dejounte Murray – 9 points
2e – Keldon Johnson – 6 points
3e – Bryn Forbes – 4 points
T-4th – Josh Primo & Lonnie Walker IV – 3 points chacun
6e – Derrick White – 2 points
T-7th – Drew Eubanks, Jakob Poeltl and Doug McDermott – 1 point each
Congratulations to our pre-season SVP: Dejounte Murray
The SVP ranking will now be reset for the regular season, leave below in the comments which you think will be the SVP for the regular season!
Next game: vs. Orlando on Wednesday
The Spurs start their regular season at home against the Orlando Magic, also in reconstruction. It’s a really good opportunity for Spurs to start with a win, but it’s the NBA, and as we know, no game is a gift.