After winning their first two games in the bubble, the San Antonio Spurs have now lost two straight. Their latest loss was 132-126 against the Denver Nuggets. Much like the Philadelphia 76ers game, the Spurs put up a good fight but were unable to pull it out in the end.
San Antonio trailed early by 12 points but used a 10-0 run to climb right back in. The Spurs once again fell behind by double-digits in the second quarter but rallied once more to grab a 65-62 lead at halftime.
In the third, the Spurs led by as many as nine points but the Nuggets quickly rallied back. Tied at 89-89 going into the fourth quarter, Denver slowly but surely pulled away. A 13-4 run in the middle of the fourth gave the Nuggets a nine-point lead, 110-101, with 5:42 remaining and the Spurs never truly challenged again.
While this was likely the worst game San Antonio has played since the restart of the regular season, it wasn’t a bad game, all things considered. The Spurs fought, got experience for the youngsters and put themselves in a position to win it in the fourth quarter.
DeMar DeRozan did well in terms of staying within the offense but he never really took charge like he did in the previous three outings. By the time he got it going a bit in the fourth, it was too late. Defensively, I thought he was quite more active than usual and made a couple plays with his anticipation.
Although he produced fine numbers (23 points and seven assists), Derrick White was knocking on the door of greatness but never quite took the next step to put the Spurs on his back. That said, he did play really, really well. He’s shooting threes without hesitation. He’s driving with toughness to the rim. He’s finding teammates. On defense, White is mentally engaged and seems to usually be in the mix when the Spurs get a stop.
This was a rough game for Dejounte Murray. He wasn’t good at all in the halfcourt sets; he couldn’t create for himself or others. He had moments on defense but nothing really to write home about. Overall, he’s just not playing like he knows what to do on a possession-to-possession basis.
Lonnie Walker IV
While it was an improvement from his last outing, Lonnie Walker IV was still underwhelming. Going without a rebound, assist, steal or block in his 21 minutes paints the picture of how passive he was on both ends. There were a few moments here and there that he looked willing too attack but, on the whole, he was too happy to blend into the background.
I was really unimpressed by Jakob Poeltl today. Offensively, his flat-footed attempted finishes at the rim couldn’t possibly be any weaker. That same softness was apparent on the defensive end where he didn’t really do much to slow Nikola Jokic. Poeltl was feeble on the boards and was getting pushed around. It’s been a forgettable restart for the Austrian thus far.
Once again, it was Rudy Gay’s ability to go 1-on-5 that kept the Spurs alive for long stretches. He looked smooth on the offensive end, his jumper has perfect rotation right now and I thought his passing was much improved. Defensively, he tried hard in the paint but couldn’t do much out on the perimeter.
A lot like the Sixers contest, Keldon Johnson was timid coming out of the gates but he eventually hit his stride. His three-point shooting continues to look much improved. When Johnson puts his head down to attack the rim, he’s difficult to stop — especially when he takes his time. Defensively, he was competing for 94 feet and helping on the boards.
Another reason why the Spurs were able to hang around was the play of Patty Mills. Offensively, he hit a number of tough shots, continually probed to create for himself and others, and his decision-making was really good. Defensively, he scratched and clawed as best as he can.
I thought this was Drew Eubanks best game so far. Offensively, he’s a strong finisher and he has a nice touch away from the rim. His hands seem to be getting better and better and it’s obvious that he’s becoming a lot more comfortable. Defensively, he still needs to refine his approach but he wasn’t bashful about getting his hands dirty.
Quinndary Weatherspoon didn’t do a whole lot on the offensive end in his nine minutes of play. Defensively, though, he continues to look like a plus. He can stay in front of his man, rotates to help with muscle and IQ, and provides a surprising ability to knock heads in the paint.
I can’t complain too much about how Pop coached the game. If winning were the number one priority, more minutes for DeRozan, Gay and Mills would have helped the cause. But that’s not the main priority right now so the young players getting extra minutes was good to see. I’m pleased that Pop seems completely engaged and is reading and reacting well to what’s happening on the court — especially since there were times earlier in the season when I wasn’t even sure he was even watching the game.