The San Antonio Spurs started the 2021-22 campaign on the right foot by walloping the Orlando Magic by a final count of 123-97. The Spurs stumbled out of the gates but a 14-4 run in the middle of the second quarter gave San Antonio control of the game and they never let go.
Overall, it was a fun and entertaining way to begin the regular season. The Spurs played really well after their slow start and got positive contributions from almost the entire roster. That said, San Antonio can’t get too excited about this victory. The Magic are one of the worst teams in the league and they were without a handful of rotation players. It’s great that the Spurs took care of business but, honestly, this was the expected outcome against a bad team that was short-handed.
Spurs vs. Magic: Final Grades
The Good: Murray’s frenetic play on defense was contagious. I really liked the way he orchestrated the offense with patience and precision. He also did a good job of keeping the pace humming. The Bad: Murray didn’t shoot it well. It looked like he was second-guessing himself at times, which led to a few creaky-looking jumpers.
White was solid across the board. After a preseason that saw him experience more downs than ups, he looked like a totally different man. He was calm, cool and collected on offense and picked his spots well. His playmaking was helpful and his three-pointers looked smooth. Defensively, he played hard and contributed on the interior and exterior.
Poeltl got more touches than he usually does and delivered. His passing — both from the post and from the perimeter — was outstanding. He ran the court hard, feasted on offensive rebounds and finished well. Defensively, Poeltl was solid. He could have been a little bit more sturdy in the paint on that end but otherwise he did really well tonight.
Although he wasn’t always under control, Johnson produced enough to consider this an above average performance. His forays to the rim more often than not ended on a positive note. Going forward, quicker decisions and locating open teammates when he’s on the move would help the offensive flow when Johnson is on the game. On defense, he spent a lot of time defending taller players and he held his own decently well.
McDermott did what McDermott does. He spread the court with his shooting. His movement away from the ball was excellent; the cuts were crisp and well timed. He looked like a natural fit with the starting lineup. Defensively, McDermott had some issues out on the perimeter but I was impressed by how willing he was to throw around his body in the paint.
The season couldn’t have started much better for Vassell. He looked primed and ready to go from the moment he hit the court. Offensively, he wasn’t bashful at all. He created for himself and others like he’s been doing that his whole life. All of his movements were polished and purposeful. Defensively, Vassell was just as good. He defended on the ball well and he was reliably the most aware help-defender on the court.
Lonnie Walker IV
While Walker’s numbers don’t look especially sexy, I liked a lot of what he did. His aggression when hunting shots was exactly where it needs to be. At the same time, he flashed court vision and playmaking ability. Defensively, he had a few blunders but the effort was there.
The improved passing and offensive awareness we witnessed from Eubanks in the preseason seemed to translate to regular season game number one. He was finding the open teammate faithfully and was typically in the right spot. On defense, Eubanks had a couple of boneheaded decisions and struggled at times guarding the perimeter but his rebounding ferocity was a plus.
Yeah, Forbes was bad. He played the role of record-scratcher on offense. When he got the ball, he was ready to shoot — but not ready to do anything else. Defensively, he looked overmatched, as is typically the case.
Bates-Diop got some minutes in before garbage time had completely broken out and did well. He’s just a heady, steady basketball player who can do a little bit of everything. He defended, handled the ball, made the right passes and called his own number when it was appropriate.
After missing the entirety of preseason, Jones got eight minutes in the opener. His minutes were of the garbage time variety but he looked like the same guy who played exceedingly well in summer league. He was quick with the ball, had deft touch on his floaters, played pressure defense and ran the offense like he knew what he was doing.
In Primo’s NBA debut, he made the fans who were chanting his name applaud even louder when he confidently sank a three-pointer like it was a routine layup. It’s safe to say this kid doesn’t lack self-assuredness. He plays like he knows that it’s a no-brainer that he belongs and it’d be ridiculous to think otherwise. For the youngest player in the league, that’s cool to see.
Landale had a slick pass, a brawny offensive rebound and blocked shot where he exhibited a healthy amount of hops.
Wait, Pop brought Forbes off the bench and then actually benched him when he wasn’t playing well? I thought I’d never see the day. Seriously, though, I like just about everything Pop did. The starting lineup is the correct fivesome. Leaning on Vassell and Walker off the bench was exactly what I hoped to see. The aggressive playcalling on defense helped blow the doors off. The offense looked surprisingly cohesive. Good stuff, good stuff.
Be sure to enjoy this win because San Antonio’s next seven games are extremely difficult. The stretch from hades begins with a game on Friday in Denver against the Nuggets.