The San Antonio Spurs ended 2019 by barely avoiding an embarrassing loss. The Golden State Warriors, who were playing without D’Angelo Russell and fell to a record of 9-26, didn’t have much talent on the court but they were still able to push the Spurs into an overtime session. Thankfully, San Antonio escaped with a 117-113 victory to improve to 14-18 and hold onto the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The first quarter was all Warriors. They played well out of the gates and held a double-digit lead late into the quarter until a Lonnie Walker IV three-pointer made it 32-25 going into the second quarter.
In the second, the Spurs made multiple runs to try to take the lead but the Warriors were able to hold onto their advantage. Going into halftime, it was 55-53 Golden State.
The Warriors began the second half with a pair of three-pointers to force Gregg Popovich to call a timeout. The good guys finally woke up for a bit and did enough to take a 77-75 lead into the fourth.
The Spurs went up by five points early in the fourth quarter but the Warriors refused to die and actually led by three points with 6:28 remaining, 90-87. That’s when DeMar DeRozan took over for the Spurs. Leaning on DeRozan’s clutch play, the Spurs took a two-point lead with 17 seconds remaining in regulation. Unfortunately, a Glenn Robinson III jumper tied the game and the game went into overtime after LaMarcus Aldridge missed a turnaround jumper with 2.5 seconds remaining.
In overtime, Dejounte Murray led the way and sparked the Spurs on both ends. When the dust had settled, San Antonio had done just enough to avoid what would have been a soul-crushing loss.
Overall, this was not a good win at all. The Warriors aren’t good and they were missing Russell, who has led their recent hot streak. This should have been an easier win for San Antonio.
But, eh, a win is a win when it comes to the 2019 Spurs. We’ve learned to not become too picky when it comes to the specifics of a W.
Spurs vs. Warriors – Final Grades
LaMarcus Aldridge was getting double-teamed aggressively when he was on the block, which seemed to take away some of his tenacity on the offensive end. To his credit, he did pretty well scoring the ball given the circumstances and also totaled four assists. On defense, he rebounded well and blocked three more shots. All in all, though, Aldridge wasn’t as lively as the Spurs would have liked him to be against an overmatched opponent.
Heading into the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan was having a rough outing. He was spending most of his time whining about calls he didn’t get after poor acting jobs on a number of flops on his way to the rim. But give him credit, DeRozan rose from the ashes when it was money time. With the Spurs down by three points with 6:28 left on the clock and staring a shameful end to 2019 in the eyes, DeRozan put the team on his back. From then on, he was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor and assisted on San Antonio’s only other points down the stretch — a Bryn Forbes three-pointer. In overtime, DeRozan started things off with two free throws and later assisted Dejounte Murray on a three-pointer. Considering how much he has struggled in clutch situations this year, seeing DeRozan rise to the occasion was great.
Much like DeRozan, Dejounte Murray had a very forgettable start to the game. His running of the offense was wonky, his defense was inconsistent and he was falling asleep on the boards. Also like DeRozan, Murray turned it on when it counted the most. Pop put Murray into the game 30 seconds into the overtime period and that move paid instant dividends. Murray got a steal that led to his breakaway layup, hit a mid-range jumper, knocked down a three-pointer and then dished off a beautiful assist to Aldridge to give the Spurs a five-point lead with 26.2 seconds remaining. That was a great ending to an otherwise subpar outing.
Bryn Forbes is yet another player who saved his best for last. In the first three quarters, he had only one basket. In the fourth quarter and overtime, he had three three-pointers and a long two-pointer. Forbes’ two most important shots were threes in the closing minutes of the fourth and the opening minute of overtime. Despite those big shots, Forbes was underwhelming in other aspects. He was poor on defense, sloppier with the ball than usual and slow to corralling loose balls.
Trey Lyles got a layup off a slick pass from Aldridge and got fouled on a three-pointer. That was about the extent of his positive productivity. Lyles was slow to react on defense, didn’t stand out on the boards and wasn’t of much help on offense. He needs to begin having more good games than blah games if he hopes to stick in the starting lineup.
This is yet another game where Patty Mills was out there earning every penny of his big money contract. When he was on the court, he brought an energy that wasn’t there when he was on the bench. He aggressively sought out three-pointers — and that was a plus on this night when so many Spurs were passing up shots. His playmaking was adequate, he took care of the ball and he was even attempting to impact the game on the boards and defensively in the paint. While the results weren’t always positive on this night, there was no questioning Mills’ effort.
Physically, Derrick White continues to look better and better. He was bouncy once again tonight, although his mobility still isn’t what it was last season. I liked White’s passing tonight — he had a few outstanding finds — and he was good on the boards and at contesting shots. Scoring-wise, he could have been more demonstrative and less hesitant when calling his own number. Defensively, he struggled against speed but was otherwise okay-ish.
Rudy Gay’s recent improved play came crashing to a halt against Golden State. Gay looked slow and appeared to be incapable of creating for himself on the offensive end. Defensively, he was decent but he struggled to keep up against the younger, faster Warriors.
Statistically, Jakob Poeltl did more than his fair share of work. Pouring in four points, seven rebounds, four assists and a block in 15 minutes is great production. That said, there were a handful of situations where Poeltl could have been better. He wasn’t always sturdy when defending the rim and the timing of his movements (particularly in pick-and-roll action) left much to be desired on offense.
The 11th man off the bench, Marco Belinelli didn’t do a whole lot in his 12 minutes. He hit a three-pointer, missed a three-pointer and turned it over twice. The most notable part of his night is learning that Pop is still ready and willing to squeeze Belinelli into the rotation.
Lonnie Walker IV
When Lonnie Walker IV entered the game in the first quarter, the Spurs were especially lethargic. Like he usually does, Walker gave the Spurs a shot of adrenaline and he helped the Spurs fight back. While he made a couple tactical mistakes on defense, I thought his pressure was really good and he definitely helped out on that end. Offensively, he gave the Spurs an extra dosage of athleticism they desperately needed. Again, he made mistakes tonight (missed assignments, fouls, questionable shots) but Walker continues to show promise and continues to prove he can bring elements to the table no one else on the team possesses.
The good: Leaning on DeRozan down the stretch of the fourth quarter worked out well. Subbing in Murray for White in the beginning stages of overtime was a masterstroke. Keeping Walker as the first wing off the bench is a plus. The bad: Pop went back to Belinelli. Forbes played too much. Pop was lucky the defense didn’t disintegrate when he went with the trio of DeRozan, Forbes and Mills. The bottom line: The Spurs were lackluster for being a team that needs to take advantage of every opportunity if they hope to make the playoffs.
Next Up for the Spurs
The Spurs will attempt to sweep their three-game homestand Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC has won seven of their last eight games so it won’t be an easy one. But considering the Spurs follow that up with consecutive games against the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks, they need to beat the Thunder to build a cushion as they march toward a hopeful spot in the playoffs.