Grades: Spurs vs. Thunder – Game #64

The Spurs continued their recovery from a dismal Rodeo Road Trip with a second straight home victory. Tonight, it was a relatively easy 116-102 win over the Thunder. San Antonio got up early and successfully held on.

The story of the game for the Spurs was their defense. Not only did they hold OKC to a point per possession on the whole, they were dominant defensively in each quarter outside of the second quarter. In those 12 minutes, the Spurs gave up 38 points. In the other 36 minutes, the Spurs allowed only 64 points. 

Yes, Oklahoma City was playing without Paul George, the league’s second-highest scorer. But, regardless, the defensively-challenged Spurs will take any good news they can get on that end of the court. The starters were especially good defensively — let’s hope they can build on that going forward. 

LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge set the tone in the first half with 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting. He was too crafty for Steven Adams and too big for anyone else on OKC to handle. Aldridge did well mixing in brute strength post-ups with feathery fallaways. In the second half, Aldridge’s offense dried up but he made up for it with very good defense. He was chasing around smaller, quicker players much of the night (starting with Jerami Grant) and held up extremely well. Aldridge was also strong on the boards and ran the court hard. 
Grade: A-
Summary: Aldridge played offense in the first half, defense in the second half. 

DeMar DeRozan

It wasn’t the most aesthetically-pleasing night for DeMar DeRozan but he was effective. Yes, he committed four of the team’s 11 turnovers and routinely dribbled into the teeth of the defense (despite having open shots available) but he was above average in just about every other category. Defensively, his individual D was impressive at times, he rebounded well and he paid attention team-wise. Offensively, he played within the structure of the sets and made numerous heady passes to open shooters. What shooting slump? DeRozan has now hit at least half of his shots in all five games since the All-Star break. 
Grade: B+
Summary: DeRozan got the job done. 

Bryn Forbes

I guess he’s healthy. Bryn Forbes walked off the calf contusion that forced him out of the previous contest to post his best game in quite a while. Offensively, Forbes took good shots and smoothly created offense when it was needed. Defensively, this was a step forward for a guy who has been lit up on that side of the court as of late. He battled, he was better at cutting off driving lanes and he limited his mental mistakes. Looking at the performances by the perimeter players, I’d say only Derrick White was better than Forbes defensively. 
Grade: A-
Summary: Forbes bounced back. 

Derrick White

Derrick White is getting better and better at defending Russell Westbrook. Tonight, he was really impressive in that regard. White stayed in front of him, forced him into mistakes and limited his easy possessions. The only thing that slowed down White’s defense was foul trouble in the first quarter. Offensively, White was also an asset. His scoring in the lane was beautiful; White’s patience, smarts and ability to read angles shone brightly. His playmaking, though, wasn’t nearly as sharp. He was slow at getting the team into its sets and wasn’t creating easy baskets for teammates at his normal rate. 
Grade: B+
Summary: White played really well in multiple areas. 

Jakob Poeltl

This was a strange game for Jakob Poeltl. On one hand, he could have played a whole lot better. On the other hand, he made great progress in terms of learning how to play with the rest of the starters. Truthfully, the latter is much more important than the former. Against the Thunder, his screens weren’t as strong as usual, he wasn’t rolling to the hoop hard enough, he wasn’t keeping his head up to receive passes and his finishing was shaky. Defensively, he got bullied on the glass by Adams and shied away from contact at times. However, Poeltl was really good at protecting the rim and nimbly played passing lanes. And, like always, he was a beast on the offensive boards. 
Grade: C+
Summary: Poeltl aided his long-term prognosis. 

Rudy Gay

It looks like Pop has decided to use Rudy Gay as the bench’s go-to scorer and he played that role perfectly against Oklahoma City. Gay’s ability to score in isolations on the perimeter against bigger players and in the post against smaller defenders made him a matchup nightmare for the Thunder. He routinely made something out of nothing, an attribute the Spurs desperately needed tonight. Defensively, Gay was above average. He was strong rebounding-wise, strong in the paint and applied enough pressure on the perimeter to mostly hide his lack of quickness. 
Grade: A-
Summary: Gay is starting to acclimate to his bench role. 

Davis Bertans

Finally. Davis Bertans broke out of his three-point slump with a pair of triples in the fourth quarter. Prior to those threes, Bertans hadn’t hit one since the Raptors game. The three-pointers against the Thunder helped put the game to bed but Bertans didn’t do much else offensively at any other point of the game. Defensively, he was decent in halfcourt (he had a few great possessions, truth be told) but was unreliable in transition defense and he blew a couple of team-defense rotations. 
Grade: C
Summary: It’s good to see Bertans do what he does best. 

Patty Mills

Ouch. Patty Mills can’t play much worse. Offensively, his shot-selection was poor, his time-management was poor, his decision-making was poor and he wasn’t handling many of the point guard duties. Defensively, Mills might have been even worse. He got blown by repeatedly and the Spurs struggled to find anyone to hide him on. It wasn’t helping that Mills’ energy level was at its lowest possible setting. Disappointing. 
Grade: F+
Summary: Mills was bad. Really bad. 

Marco Belinelli

Marco Belinelli didn’t play well but, unlike Mills, I didn’t think his effort was an issue. He was scratching and clawing on defense, even if the results were unimpressive. Offensively, he took a few bad shots but he was moving well without the ball and was creating space for teammates. 
Grade: D+
Summary: Belinelli had a bad night at the office. 

Pop

I’ve wanted Pop to start Poeltl just about all season so I’m not complaining now that Poeltl has started the last two games. I’m not sure yet if it’s a permanent change but it has my seal of approval. With Poeltl in the starting lineup, the team’s defensive potential is much higher … even though it’s undeniable that their offensive ceiling is negatively impacted in such an alignment. I don’t have an issue with how the rest of the minutes were doled out — the rotation was fine. Bringing Gay off the bench is beginning to look like the right call. 
Grade: A-
Summary: Pop didn’t do much, if anything, wrong. 

Looking ahead: San Antonio, 35-29, can sweep their three-game homestand with a victory over Denver, 42-20, on Monday. That promises to be a challenge but it’s definitely doable.

LJ Ellis