The San Antonio Spurs won their second straight exhibition game to finish 2019-20 preseason play with a 2-3 record. After building a 31-20 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of the first period, the Spurs experienced some rough patches but held on for a 104-91 victory.
It wasn’t a great display of basketball over the final three quarters but San Antonio played hard, particularly on defense. The offense, though, still has a lot of room for improvement as the Spurs head into the regular season.
Pop played a normal rotation for much of the game until late in the fourth quarter. With everyone healthy and available, it was a good preview for what should be expected when the real games start on Wednesday night versus the New York Knicks.
After a scintillating shooting performance against the Houston Rockets, LaMarcus Aldridge’s aim wasn’t quite the same against the Grizzlies. In fact, Aldridge was 0-for-9 on shots from outside of the paint. Despite his wayward marksmanship, the rest of his night was decently productive. He was physical in the paint on both ends, ran the court with purpose and kept his hands active on defense. Aldridge looks to be in shape and ready for the regular season.
Bizarro world DeMar DeRozan made an appearance on Friday night. I don’t know who this guy is but he was 2-for-9 on two-pointers and a perfect 3-for-3 on three-pointers. Seriously, though, it was great to see DeRozan hit from beyond the arc. The first three-pointer he made was mostly out of desperation. However, the other two were shots he attempted with confidence and no hesitancy. If DeRozan can become a three-point threat (even just a 33% shooter from deep), that’d open the floor up for others and substantially add to his value to the team. Beyond his three-point shooting, the 30-year-old rebounded well, made plays with the ball and limited his mistakes. His defense wasn’t great but considering he held up well when playing power forward, I’d say he was better than average on that end.
Dejounte Murray took a hard fall early and never seemed to find a rhythm. He passed up shots, his dribble was loose and his decision-making was inconsistent. Defensively, he was strong when helping and in rotation. His individual defense, on the other hand, was really lacking. He got caught with his head turned multiple times and he was taking poor angles throughout the night. For as well as Murray played at times this preseason, he ended on a sour note.
The MVP of the preseason for the Spurs was undoubtedly Bryn Forbes. Obviously, not only was that a low bar, it means nothing going into the regular season. But give Forbes credit, he cemented a spot in the starting lineup with great shooting and palpable confidence in all aspects of his offensive repertoire. He had a few hiccups against the Grizzlies but kept playing hard. I even thought his defensive play was worthy of note.
Trey Lyles got the start again, which is interesting because the Grizzlies started a lineup that was big enough for Pop to ride with Jakob Poeltl instead. Could Lyles be a starter going forward? It’s possible, although I’m guessing Pop will decide on a game-by-game basis depending on matchups. As for how Lyles played versus Memphis … it wasn’t too pretty. He flashed more ball skills out on the perimeter and did good work on the boards but struggled in all other aspects. His shot doesn’t look good (he hasn’t made a perimeter jumper in a Spurs uniform yet) and his defense was sub par. The guy obviously has talent but he has a lot to learn — and Lyles is going to eventually have to hit a shot. Right now, he’s a stretch four in theory only.
It was a productive night at the office for Rudy Gay. He was letting three-pointers fly, did work on the glass and had a few slick passes. But, honestly, I’m still worried by how he’s moving. Gay seems even less agile than last year and doesn’t appear to be as explosive jumping-wise. Hopefully he’s just holding back for the regular season. Against the Grizzlies, his lack of mobility resulted in a few poor shot attempts and inept defense out on the perimeter.
The good: Derrick White was really good in pick-and-rolls and was probably the best playmaker on the team. He was also active on the boards and played with good energy defensively. The bad: White missed shots and then, as has become customary for him, started hanging his head and passing up shots. That’s a bad habit he needs to break, ASAP. He also could have done a better job of pushing the pace in the open court and making quicker decisions in the halfcourt.
When Patty Mills was playing off the ball and just concentrated on shooting open shots, he was valuable. His spot-up jumper looks good right now and he appears to be in excellent shape. The problems tonight came whenever Mills tried to run the offense. He dribbled too much, wasn’t creating for others and just bogged everything down. Defensively, Mills was in preseason mode.
I was impressed with Jakob Poeltl tonight. He played bigger and more athletic than usual. He was great on the boards, made a handful of really good plays on defense in transition and was decisive when making decisions. Poeltl plays really well with the bench unit because he fits right in with their pace and space philosophy. In such a role, it’s not hyperbole to say he could be the best bench center in the league.
The Spurs need Marco Belinelli to be aggressive shooting-wise when he’s on the court (because otherwise he’s not worth playing) but he could dial it back a bit. He doesn’t have to shoot every time he catches the ball totally out of balance. Setting his feet once in a while wouldn’t cause physical pain, I don’t think.
In both preseason wins, DeMarre Carroll has really struggled on the offensive end. He’s obviously still trying to figure out how he fits on this team but he can look surprisingly uncoordinated at times. Carroll did better defensively and on the boards — but he’s a work in progress. As it stands, he hasn’t shown that he’s a player who deserves to have a spot in the rotation from Day 1.
Lonnie Walker IV
Better. Lonnie Walker IV didn’t play until there were eight minutes remaining in the game but I liked how determined he was once he hit the court. He was playing with the first unit but wasn’t bashful about calling his own number. Walker’s decision-making was lacking but he wasn’t deferential to a fault, which is an improvement. He also was a spark on defense, which had to win him points with the coaching staff.
Chimezie Metu had a couple strong moves and took charge during garbage time. His tools continue to tease … and that (along with his guaranteed contract) will probably earn him a spot on the final roster.
The good: He defended out on the perimeter with no problem. The bad: Luka Samanic missed a three.
Keldon Johnson lived up to his ‘Big Body’ nickname with a strong take to the rim.
Quinndary Weatherspoon struggled in garbage for the second straight game after a strong preseason showing in the first three contests. That said, he has shown enough to be an intriguing prospect going forward.