Mercifully, the 2019 Rodeo Road Trip is finally in the books. With a 101-86 loss in Brooklyn, the Spurs finished the trip with a 1-7 record — their only win a 1-point victory over a reeling Grizzlies squad.
While this was a difficult Rodeo Road Trip on paper, the results were definitely disappointing. They entered the annual pilgrimage riding a five-game winning streak. They return home licking their wounds while wondering whether the playoffs are legitimately attainable.
That said, while the Knicks loss on Sunday was an unmitigated disaster, tonight’s game against the Nets wasn’t all bad. In fact, the loss came down to a singular failure: the role players who are on the team for their ability to shoot the ball couldn’t hit a shot.
Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Davis Bertans were a combined 5-for-33 from the field and 2-for-17 on three-pointers. That is 15.2% and 11.8%, respectively. Add in Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl and those six complementary players were 8-for-50 for a miserable 16%. That, uh, won’t get it done. In fact, it’s miraculous that the game was even halfway competitive.
The defense performed well enough. Hell, compared to the recent showings on that end, the Spurs were downright dominant on defense. LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay performed well offensively. San Antonio played well enough to win outside of their role players hitting shots. After that nightmare in New York City, this was a step in the right direction.
LaMarcus Aldridge looks healthy again. He ran the court well, was physical with the ball in the low block and competed well throughout. His defense was also stout. He defended the rim well and was active in pick-and-rolls. Aldridge did enough for the Spurs to win.
Summary: Aldridge was solid in all phases.
DeMar DeRozan had another efficient scoring night. He took good shots, didn’t force the issue and was passing plenty. His season-low two assists point more to the fact that his teammates were shooting blanks rather than selfishness. DeRozan’s most glaring fault on offense was not shooting enough. He was routinely passing up open looks outside of 15 feet. I don’t mind him not shooting three-pointers but the spacing can’t survive DeRozan being hesitant to shoot wide open midrange jumpers. Defensively, DeRozan was about average. He got lost in the zone defensive schemes a lot … but that wasn’t unique to just him.
Summary: DeRozan played well enough for the Spurs to win.
Ugh. Bryn Forbes remains ice cold coming out of the All-Star break. He’s now shooting 28.6% from the field and 15% on three-pointers since the break. He has ten assists and no turnovers in those three games but that doesn’t come close to making up for his misfirings. Forbes’ confidence is bottoming out but to his credit he’s not shying away from shooting; the moment he is scared to shoot is the moment he loses all value. Defensively, he was better than his recent outings … but, then again, that’s about the lowest possible bar.
Summary: Forbes isn’t shooting straight.
Derrick White doesn’t look 100% physically yet but he was moving better against Brooklyn. Defensively, he was active. He moved his feet well, got hands on balls and rotated quickly. Offensively, he’s a couple beats out of rhythm and he’s not getting sufficient lift on his shots. That’s leading to more misses and more mistakes than usual. But, still, his playmaking is helpful and the Spurs look most cohesive when he has the ball.
Summary: White is working his way back.
Davis Bertans was again in the starting lineup again. Again it was a disappointment. He’s not getting touches as a starter and is forced to attempt ill-advised shots just to shake off the cobwebs every now and then. Defensively, I thought he was pretty darn impressive out on the perimeter. The Nets guards attempted to shake and bake him out at the three-point line and had very little success. Bertans wasn’t as stingy in the paint but he held his own.
Summary: Bertans isn’t meshing well with the starters.
This wasn’t good timing. For the second straight game, the Spurs really needed production from Marco Belinelli and once again he failed to produce. He couldn’t hit shots, didn’t make plays and his movement was muted. Defensively, he was better than usual on the boards but was otherwise not much of a help.
Summary: Belinelli didn’t answer the bell.
Yikes. Patty Mills is 3-for-21 from the field over the last two nights. To make matters worse, he failed to record an assist against the Nets (though, truth be told, he did have a couple good passes that weren’t converted). Though he pulled the trigger at a reasonable rate, I didn’t like his shot-selection — too many contested shots early in the shot clock. Defensively, Mills gave decent enough effort but didn’t move the needle.
Summary: Mills barely helped at all.
Rudy Gay came off the bench and did okay. Compared to the rest of the bench, he was Jordan-esque, in fact. Without him, things would have gotten a few degrees uglier. Defensively, his movements were slow but his physicality kept him from being too much of a liability.
Summary: Gay carried his weight.
What happened? Jakob Poeltl entered the game shooting 65.5% from the field. Since the All-Star break, he was 10-for-11 from the field. Tonight? Poeltl was badly missing chip shots every chance he got. By my count, he airballed at least two layups. Strange. Poeltl rebounded well, played reasonably well defensively but his offensive ineptness overshadowed everything else.
Summary: Poeltl forgot how to lay the ball up.
Why did Bertans start over Gay? The only explanation that makes sense is Pop wanted to keep Gay’s minutes in check on the second night of a back-to-back. Other than that, nothing much Pop did hurt or helped the team. When the complementary players are 8-for-50 from the field, there’s not much a coach can do to stop the ship from sinking.
Summary: No magic potions were available.
Looking ahead: Welp, at least the Rodeo Road Trip is over. Let’s hope the good guys can regroup, get over the disappointment and realize they have an advantageous schedule the rest of the way.
Next up is a three-game homestand that begins Wednesday night against the Pistons. Get the win and get back on track.