Grades: Spurs vs. Pelicans – Preseason Game #3
The San Antonio Spurs dropped to 0-3 in the preseason after a 123-114 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Spurs had a phenomenal start to the game, as they sprinted out to a 17-3 advantage. Their lead eventually reached 17 points in the first half. But after holding the Pelicans to 16 points in the first quarter, the defense disappeared and New Orleans steamrolled their way to 107 points in the final three quarters.
Since it’s the exhibition season, there’s no reason to succumb to panic. None of these practice games will be remembered once the regular season tips off. And, besides, there were positives to take from this game, specifically the defense in the first quarter and an offense that scored 66 points in the first half after putting only 89 points on the board in each of the first two games of the preseason. Doing well on the offensive end was especially good to see with LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay resting.
That said, there were a lot of underwhelming individual performances and there is still obviously a lot of work that needs to be done. With only two more preseason games to straighten everything out, it’s not wrong to be uneasy as a Spurs fan.
After a ho-hum start to preseason play, DeMar DeRozan turned it on against the Pelicans. Offensively, he was sharp. DeRozan easily sliced through the defense and hit a few difficult shots. He also smartly drew fouls and got to the free throw line. His passing was also a plus. Oh, and he took a three-pointer! DeRozan airballed it but got fouled, so we can count that as a win, I guess. Defensively, he was bad. He hasn’t tried on that end of the court during preseason play. That’s not surprising for a vet but let’s hope he’s ready when the regular season bell is rung.
It was only an okay outing for Dejounte Murray. He wasn’t as aggressive as we’ve seen him in the other games. He made a few good reads passing-wise but his dribble was loose and his decision-making could have been better. Scoring-wise, he didn’t look for his jumper much but was able to get to the rim. Defensively, I was pleased. He hounded Lonzo Ball out on the perimeter and even blocked Zion Williamson at the rim. Murray looks every bit the part of a player who has the potential to be named to an NBA All-Defensive team.
Bryn Forbes started his path toward his team-high 18 points with a four-point play to begin the scoring for the Spurs. From there, he continued to do what he’s done for much of the preseason: score with polished precision, show off a smooth jumper and even display some added athleticism when going to the rim. Forbes’ marksmanship has made him a lock to begin the season as a starter. Defensively against New Orleans, I thought he was decent in the first quarter but then got worse as the game went on. In the second half, he got benched and yelled at for poor transition defense.
Interestingly, Jakob Poeltl was the player Pop selected to defend Williamson. At first, the strategy seemed to work as Poeltl was about to keep his big body between the rookie phenom and the rim. However, as the game wore on, Williamson figured out how to use his quickness advantage and Poeltl was helpless. That said, the Austrian was strong on the boards and gave strong effort throughout. On offense, he corralled a few poor passes and made a couple awkward push shot under duress.
With Aldridge busy resting, Trey Lyles got the start. Although he played in the scrimmage, this was the first time Lyles was wearing the real Silver and Black duds. The good: On offense, he’s fluid with the ball and has an advanced perimeter game for a big. Lyles had a nice and-one going to the rim off the bounce. Defensively, he can switch onto smaller players adequately well. The bad: His jumper doesn’t look good right now. It has too much arm action and he’s not balanced properly. That’s worrisome because without a jumper, he’s not an NBA player. Lyles is undeniably soft in the lane on both ends. It’s not that he’s necessarily afraid of contact, it’s more that he has a weak base, isn’t an explosive leaper and gets pushed easily.
This was the best DeMarre Carroll has looked as a Spur so far. His three-point shot was falling, he added some value taking the ball to the lane, battled on the boards and applied pressure defensively. He no longer has the quickness to be a lockdown defender but it appears he’ll be a big improvement from options the Spurs trotted out last season. Offensively, he’s not just a catch-and-shoot player, as he’s coordinated enough to operate on the move.
Underwhelming. Derrick White wasn’t as bad as he was in the first two preseason games but he struggled to move the needle versus the Pelicans. Defensively, he didn’t stand out from the pack. Offensively, he was a little bit better running the show and kept his confidence above sea level but he wasn’t really making a notable impact. The Spurs need White to emerge. Thus far in preseason, he’s regressing.
Not a good game for Marco Belinelli. If New Orleans didn’t stupidly foul him on a couple of his wild three-point attempts, it would have been really, really bad. As it was, his shot-selection was poor and he was killing plays instead of making them. Defensively, he was a nightmare.
Patty Mills is playing with a lot of energy in preseason. I thought he was decent enough on Sunday afternoon. Defensively, while he got exploited at times, he was able to draw a couple of offensive fouls and his hustle interrupted a few plays. Offensively, his aggression helped open opportunities for himself and others. That said, his signal-to-noise ratio wasn’t too good, as he spent a whole lot of time dribbling around and not enough time making decisive moves.
Lonnie Walker IV
Like White, Lonnie Walker IV disappointed by simply blending into the wallpaper. Outside of some extra meaningless points deep into garbage time, Walker didn’t do much of anything. His defense was probably his brightest spot, but even that wasn’t anything to write home about. Then again, part of the issue might be that Walker is not coming into the game with the starters or even the first wave of reserves.
Playing backup center with Aldridge out, Drew Eubanks was mostly just a big body out there. He had a few solid defensive possessions and wasn’t timid on offense, but all-around he was mostly forgettable.
Chimezie Metu wasn’t able to follow up his strong scrimmage showing. Instead, he struggled to hold down the fort defensively when he played center. On offense, he wasn’t entirely confident regarding what he wanted to do. Even when he got a step on his opponent, he couldn’t take advantage.
Once again, I was impressed with how Quinndary Weatherspoon ran the show during garbage time. He takes a no-nonsense approach to both ends. Honestly, his ruggedness and toughness is a breath of fresh air compared to how most of his teammates have approached preseason. Weatherspoon needs work but he’s fearless and willing to work. That’s not a bad starting point for a young player.
Dedric Lawson doesn’t pass the eye-test to me as a quality NBA prospect. Too small, too unathletic, too slow-twitch. He’s going to have to really work on his skill level in the G League to make it.
After shooting every time he touched it in the preseason opener, Keldon Johnson has simmered down. He had a large cheering section at the game but wasn’t able to show much when he got onto the court in garbage time.
Daulton Hommes accidentally hit Brandon Ingram with an elbow and was whistled for an offensive foul. The refs reviewed it and thought about giving him a flagrant but decided against it. That ended the notable part of Hommes’ day.
The last guy off the bench was once again Luka Samanic. By the time he got on the court in garbage time, what was taking place on the court barely qualified as basketball.