The San Antonio Spurs (17-22) completed their difficult four-game road trip with a respectable record of 2-2 after falling to the Miami Heat (28-12) on Wednesday night. The Heat entered the game 17-1 at home and the Spurs just didn’t quite have enough to defeat their third fourth straight plus-.500 team, as Miami got the W by a final score of 106-100.
The Spurs were going back and forth with the Heat in the first quarter until their offense dried up. With five minutes remaining in the period, San Antonio trailed 16-15 — but the Spurs only scored two more points the rest of the quarter, which put them in a 24-17 hole heading into the second.
Patty Mills hit the first three shots in the second quarter for the Spurs to jumpstart the offense. With the offense humming, the defense remained stout enough to completely climb out of the hole. At halftime, the game was tied at 51-51.
The Spurs really started playing well in the middle of the third quarter. With the Heat up 63-59, the Silver and Black went on a 15-5 run in less than four minutes to take a 74-68 lead. At that point, the Spurs had to really feel good about their chances.
Unfortunately that’s when San Antonio’s offense dried up once again. They scored only five points in the next nine minutes. Amazingly, despite that epic drought, the Spurs were still in the game down the stretch. The good guys had the ball down only five points with 1:44 remaining but an ill-timed turnover and an empty possession the next time the Spurs had the ball ended all hope.
Overall, the Spurs have to be happy with how they played on the road trip. Even tonight the Spurs played well for large stretches of the game. They competed on defense, executed relatively well offensively and stayed right in the game throughout. A few more shots here and a couple stops there and the Spurs could have captured another surprising win.
Spurs at Heat – Final Grades
As has become the usual as of late, LaMarcus Aldridge spent much of his time behind the three-point line. He ended the game 2-for-6 on threes and 3-for-6 on twos. It’s going to be a challenge for him to tiptoe the line between becoming too perimeter oriented and providing adequate spacing. This game, I didn’t have much of a problem with how he handled things on offense. He took care of the ball, drew his man out of the lane and remained a threat most of the night. Defensively, his pick-and-roll defense was subpar and he could have rebounded better but he defended the lane pretty well and hustled back in transition.
DeMar DeRozan’s demolition tour keeps trucking. Tonight, he poured in 30 points on 14 shots and had seven assists to only two turnovers. That’s fantastic production. His recipe for success is what we’ve seen lately: hard drives to the hoop, feathery touch on mid-range jumpers and finding open shooters when the defense collapses. My only issue with his offensive play against the Heat is he didn’t do more of it. The Spurs needed him to carry a heavier burden, especially with how well he was playing. But, then again, he already did a whole lot and the Spurs would have been lost without him, so it’s difficult to be too mad with him. On defense, DeRozan was pretty darn good. He had the Jimmy Butler assignment and Butler had only 12 points on 11 shots. DeRozan also had a couple hustle plays on that end that we don’t usually see. Well done … again.
Dejounte Murray had trouble getting much going offensively. He wasn’t finding crevices to the rim and his passing wasn’t creating many open looks. His pushing of the tempo was adequate, though, and he was a little bit better in terms of getting the team into their sets. Defensively, his team-defense was pretty good and he rebounded really well. On the flipside, his individual defense was iffy and he wasn’t doing a good job of keeping players in front of him.
Bryn Forbes was uber aggressive once again on offense — and, once again, it paid negative dividends. The good news is he looked confident shooting the ball and his stroke looked fine … the ball just didn’t go in. I didn’t have too much of an issue with his shot-selection but he used a lot of possessions without much to show for it. Defensively, Forbes was a turnstyle. He wasn’t competing hard enough, got obliterated by screens, got caught with his head turned multiple times and mixed in a handful of mental mistakes for good measure.
The good: Trey Lyles helped out offensively with his ball-handling, passing, basketball IQ and offensive rebounding. When it comes to play creation, Lyles has attributes you usually find in perimeter players. Additionally, his ability to crash the offensive boards running in from the three-point line is pretty impressive. The bad: Lyles didn’t really score enough to remain a threat on offense. He had a couple of bad shots — mostly of the mid-range variety off the dribble. Defensively, he didn’t stand out much. Lyles got overwhelmed in the lane a couple times and wasn’t always quick on switches.
DeRozan’s sidekick on this night was Patty Mills. Offensively, he realized the Spurs needed a shot of adrenaline and he was happy to provide it. Mills was hunting shots — whether off pick-and-rolls or using movement away from the ball — and did well converting his looks. If the Spurs didn’t have Mills providing a secondary offensive force, they wouldn’t have been able to hang. Defensively, I was also impressed. He played with physicality, stayed sticky on his man, fought around screens and generally made it really difficult for the Heat to pick on him.
Last game, Derrick White was aggressive, confident and ran the show beautifully down the stretch. This game? Not so much. White’s aggressiveness came and went, his confidence waned at times and he had a few costly mistakes in the closing minutes. That said, he played better than average defense and hit a couple of notable baskets offensively when the Spurs desperately needed a positive play.
Rudy Gay just couldn’t get it going. He wasn’t moving too well and his jumper was flat. His lack of athleticism stood out like a sore thumb against a team with a lot of athletes. With Gay not feeling it, it would have been helpful if he had looked to pass more than he did. Defensively, he was good enough on the boards but didn’t provide much help out on the perimeter and didn’t contribute much to guarding the paint.
The good: Jakob Poeltl played well on defense — both out on the perimeter and in the paint. His energy running the court both ways made life easier for others. The bad: Poeltl could have been better on the boards. On the defensive glass, he failed to go after the ball sometimes and didn’t box out well at other times. He had some tips on the offensive glass but he didn’t come down with any. Offensively, he wasn’t involved as much as he normally is — and the Heat took advantage of that by sagging off.
Lonnie Walker IV
I liked the confidence Lonnie Walker IV played with on offense. He didn’t hesitate when making moves or going up for shots. He also took care of the ball well and pushed the tempo. Defensively, he was fine in man-to-man action but lost his man on switches sometimes and was clueless when Pop called for zone.
This time, Marco Belinelli didn’t have any second half magic. Instead, he missed both of his shots and the Heat were smart enough to exploit him on the defensive end.
Pop used some smoke and mirrors to keep the defense sturdy enough in order for the Spurs to stay in the game. Offensively, he helped put DeRozan in positions to succeed and his playcalls out of timeouts usually resulted in open shots. Rotations-wise, Belinelli over Walker in the second half turned out to be a mistake. Mills not playing more than Forbes was really strange given their performances. I did like how Pop gave a longer leash to Lyles and it was fair to allow White a chance to close another game after how well he did last time out.
Up Next for the Spurs
Successful road trip in the books, now back to the AT&T Center. On Friday, the Spurs have a game they need to win versus the Atlanta Hawks. After that, the Spurs and these Heat play again in San Antonio on Sunday.