The San Antonio Spurs, playing without LaMarcus Aldridge, Jakob Poeltl, Lonnie Walker IV and Marco Belinelli, lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday to all but officially end their playoff chase. San Antonio’s record dropped to 26-36 by losing to a Cavs squad that has the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
The first quarter was once again a struggle for the good guys. The Spurs were down double-digits a little bit more than four minutes into the game. Things kept heading south for San Antonio, with Cleveland taking a 35-18 lead into the second quarter.
In the second, the Spurs eventually got going. They got within six points at one point before going into intermission down 60-50.
In the third, the Silver and Black attacked right away. The Spurs began the half with a 13-2 run to grab the lead. The rest of the period featured back and forth action, with San Antonio going into the fourth quarter with a 91-87 advantage.
The final period continued going back and forth. Down the stretch, it was Rudy Gay who came up big. He hit a three-pointer with a minute to go to tie it. Twenty seconds later, he hit another three-pointer to tie the game. Gay’s final heroic act was when he tied the game with a mid-range jumper with a second to go to force overtime.
Unfortunately, the Spurs went cold in the overtime. They were scoreless for a three-minute stretch while the Cavaliers kept scoring. That was the ballgame. Cleveland’s 132-129 victory wasn’t entirely unexpected but it really empties San Antonio’s tank of any optimism that was left.
Spurs at Cavaliers – Final Grades
The good: DeMar DeRozan went to the line 12 times thanks to his physical play. His physicality also allowed him to snare eight rebounds. DeRozan led the Spurs in scoring and provided a relatively consistent focal point. The bad: DeRozan missed too many makeable shots. He was too sloppy with the basketball. He let the refs get inside his head again. Plus, DeRozan’s defense was somewhere between horrendous and really, really bad.
Dejounte Murray was aggressive … extremely aggressive. You can see it in his numbers. His 18 field goal attempts were a career-high, as were his six steals. Honestly, I liked his aggression on both ends. On offense, he got it going and he didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. And even when he was forcing the action, he still made some good passes. On defense, his long arms and dogged determination played key roles during the rare times the Spurs played solid D.
The good: No one can be mad with Bryn Forbes pouring in 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field, 4-for-8 from three-point land, and 3-for-3 at the line. There were segments of this game in which Forbes’ jumper was the only thing the Spurs had going. The bad: Forbes wasn’t making good passes and was missing open teammates. More damning, though, was his play on the defensive end. To say he was a turnstile would be an insult to turnstiles.
Trey Lyles missed his three-pointers and that caused him to start hesitating from deep. But beyond that, I thought he played well offensively. He drove the ball to the basket well, found quality looks for himself, and found teammates when necessary. He also helped out with the ball-handling. Defensively, I liked his rebounding but he just didn’t have the beef to battle against Cleveland’s trio of talented bigs in Kevin Love, Andre Drummond and Tristan Thompson.
Due to those aforementioned bigs on the Cavs, Drew Eubanks got the start. In the first half, he was pretty awful. His hands were made of stone, he kept getting in the way, and he could usually be found either rumbling, stumbling or bumbling. The second half, Eubanks was much better. He wasn’t great, mind you, but he was helping San Antonio’s cause more than hurting it.
Through three quarters, Rudy Gay wasn’t good at all. He wasn’t sharing the ball much and he was building a house of bricks. Thankfully, Gay came alive in the fourth quarter. He scored eight of the Spurs final ten points to send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, Gay’s magic ended in the fourth. He missed all three of his shots in the extra session, which played a leading role in San Antonio’s demise.
I mostly liked Derrick White’s defense. He was caught flat-footed sometimes and looked less quick than usual at other times, but he competed with vigor — especially in the paint. Offensively, he was great at getting to the line and he was being more assertive than normal in terms of calling his own number. However, his court vision was poor this game, which is a rarity for White. He was missing open players and the ball was getting stuck in his hands without much play-making taking place.
Patty Mills played hard on both ends — he just didn’t make much of an impact. On defense, he had his hard hat on but was fouling too much and his size was obviously a liability. On offense, he wasn’t hunting for shots as incessantly as we’ve witnessed as of late, which caused Mills to blend into the background more than usual.
I liked just about everything I saw from Keldon Johnson. On defense, he’s very willing to get his hands dirty but he’s also quick enough to stay in front of players. He uses his strength well and he’s not timid at all about jumping for, and pulling down, contested rebounds. On offense, he utilizes his big body to bowling ball his way to the rim. He appears to be athletic enough to finish in those situations, which is great news for his potential in this league. Johnson played a tough, rugged brand of basketball — but he also seems to have a good amount of smarts to his game too.
I don’t know what to say. Pop made some seriously disturbing decisions down the stretch of the game. He wasn’t managing things well, to say the least. His use of his final timeout in overtime had the rest of the coaches scratching their heads because it essentially ended the game. Let’s just hope it was a bad day at the office.
Up Next for the Spurs
The Spurs have a four-game homestand — but it’s not easy. Three of the four games are against teams currently holding onto a Western Conference playoff spot. The homestand starts Tuesday evening versus the Dallas Mavericks, a team who has already defeated the Spurs three times this season.