Grades: Spurs vs. Nuggets – Game #65

The Spurs completed a three-game sweep of their homestand by defeating the Nuggets on Monday night. After the disastrous Rodeo Road Trip, San Antonio has to be thrilled with their recovery and their much improved defensive play they displayed while at home.

Tonight’s win was almost snatched away. The Spurs were up by 14 points with four and a half minutes remaining when Denver caught fire. They hit five three-pointers over the next four minutes, while the Spurs could only manage two points courtesy of a DeMar DeRozan shot in the lane.

In the final 15 seconds, the Nuggets had three shots that could have won the game. Thankfully, all three shots clanged and the good guys were able to escape with a 104-103 victory.

The fourth quarter collapse was unsightly and the offensive execution was abysmal down the stretch, however this still classifies as a very good win. The Nuggets entered the game with a 42-20 record and were as healthy as they’ve been all season. 

Well done. 

LaMarcus Aldridge

It was a successful night at the office for LaMarcus Aldridge. Defensively, he was stout. He guarded the paint well, was strong against post play, boxed out with physicality, rebounded the ball and made a few key plays late in the game on that end. His only weakness defensively was the fact that he was sometimes slow to close out on shooters. Offensively, he had his jumper going and was confidently going about his business. Aldridge’s early season struggles on offense are now a distant memory. 
Grade: B+
Summary: Aldridge laid the foundation. 

DeMar DeRozan

For the first three and a half quarters, I was very pleased with DeMar DeRozan’s play. He was staying within the offense, picking his spots well, taking high percentage shots and creating very good looks for his teammates. Defensively, he was extremely active. His defense, both individually and team-wise, was well above average. This is as locked in as we’ve witnessed DeRozan on the defensive end. Unfortunately, his play down the stretch erased a lot of the good he did against the Nuggets. He started calling his own number, broke the team’s rhythm and wasn’t producing much of anything resembling quality shots. The Spurs don’t need DeRozan to be a hero to close out games. Let’s hope he figures that out. 
Grade: B+
Summary: DeRozan was really good for a majority of the contest. 

Derrick White

The good: Derrick White’s playmaking was fantastic, as evidenced by his career-high nine assists and his zero turnovers in 36 minutes. His court vision, patience and pinpoint passing were all quite impressive. White’s defense was also a plus. His man-to-man D was tight, his help was timely, he crashed the boards well and he was even challenging shots in the lane (White tied his career-high with three blocks). The bad: The Nuggets were sagging off of him and White couldn’t make them pay from beyond the three-point arc, finishing 1-for-6 from deep. Denver also caught him cheating on defense a handful of times and White couldn’t recover in time. And although it wasn’t really his fault, I would have loved to have seen White continue to be aggressive playmaking-wise down the stretch. 
Grade: B
Summary: White was a few jumpers away from having a stellar night. 

Bryn Forbes

Offensively, while Bryn Forbes shot well, he exhibited his fair share of discombobulation. He routinely found himself in disadvantageous positions, which resulted in his play on that end being much sloppier than usual. Defensively, he was about average. He didn’t get burned too much individually but he also wasn’t supplying much useful help and got lost too often in rotations. 
Grade: C+
Summary: Forbes wasn’t terrible but he also didn’t help the cause much. 

Jakob Poeltl

Jakob Poeltl got in early foul trouble and never truly found a rhythm. That said, he was solid while he was out there. Poeltl finished well, made good decisions passing-wise and set quality screens. Defensively, he did well. Poeltl clogged the paint when needed but was also quick to help out on the perimeter. When he was in the game, the Nuggets found it difficult to score … and that wasn’t a coincidence. 
Grade: B+
Summary: Poeltl was never able to settle in but he did well. 

Rudy Gay

Up until the final minute, Rudy Gay was having another really good ballgame. While he struggled a little bit from three-point range, the rest of Gay’s offense was flowing. He was the focal point of the bench’s attack and thrived in the role. When he wasn’t exploiting a mismatch, he was distributing great psases. Defensively, I thought he was equally as effective. He was snaring contested rebounds, guarding the rim like a legit bigman and was useful out on the perimeter. In the last minute, Gay failed to grab a pair of defensive rebounds and then missed two free throws that almost came back to haunt him and the team. 
Grade: B+
Summary: Gay was really good until the very end. 

Marco Belinelli

Marco Belinelli played his part. He spread the court on offense while moving expertly without the ball. He was a little bit more muted than usual but also avoided mistakes and bad shots. Defensively, Belinelli competed better than normal and wasn’t much of a liability at all. 
Grade: B
Summary: Belinelli was rock solid. 

Davis Bertans

Davis Bertans wasn’t helping much in any area. He didn’t get any open three-point looks and that took away his value on that end. Defensively, he did better than usual on the boards but he was also making a lot of mistakes. His transition D was iffy, he was slow to contest shooters and he could have been more physical in the paint. 
Grade: C
Summary: Bertans won’t be sending this tape home to Latvia. 

Patty Mills

Better than last game, at least. Patty Mills’ energy level was much, much improved against the Nuggets. I didn’t love all of his decisions but any mistakes tonight were out of aggression rather than indifference. His defense wasn’t great by any means but he was definitely much better than usual on that end. 
Grade: B+
Summary: Mills came to play this evening. 

Drew Eubanks

With Pau Gasol now playing for the Bucks, Drew Eubanks has apparently been given the chance to be the team’s third center behind Aldridge and Poeltl. In his first outing in that role, I was pleased. Eubanks is a big, agile, coordinated body. He moves and jumps well, which is honestly a breath of fresh air when compared to post-injury Gasol. Eubanks obviously has a lot to learn but he seems to have a decent enough feel and I didn’t see anything tonight that suggests he can’t successfully play the role of third center. 
Grade: B
Summary: Eubanks looks like he’ll be a part of the big boy team from now on. 

Pop

For three and a half quarters, I thought Pop coached a good game. I didn’t love his coaching down the stretch, though. Allowing DeRozan to take the playmaking duties away from White was the wrong move. Especially with how well White was making plays tonight, Pop shouldn’t have let that happened. And Mills in the game for defensive purposes late? Yikes. The rest of the rotation was good enough but I would have appreciated more minutes for Poeltl, especially when the Nuggets were featuring lineups with two legit bigs on the court.
Grade: B-
Summary: Well coached game for 42 minutes or so. 

Looking ahead: Great job on the homestand. Momentum is back in their favor now.

To keep things rolling in the right direction, a win Wednesday night in Atlanta would be nice. The Hawks have been playing decently as of late but the Spurs need to show that their improved play can travel.

LJ Ellis