The Spurs desperately needed a win in Memphis in their final game before the All-Star break. And they got it … just barely.
After beginning the 2019 Rodeo Road trip with four consecutive losses, Tuesday night’s affair started off in disastrous fashion. The offense was sluggish, the defense was asleep and the ragtag Grizzlies led at the end of the first quarter 33-20.
Thankfully, mercifully, the Spurs turned it around in the middle two periods. Over the second and third quarters, the San Antonio outscored Memphis 74-53 to take an eight-point advantage into the final stanza. During that time, the Spurs were shooting lights out from distance and their defense showed a couple signs of life.
In the fourth quarter, the Spurs spent the 12 minutes tiptoeing around what would have been a horrendous, demoralizing loss. Thankfully, the D held rigid enough to prevent a limp offensive quarter from sinking the ship. With the 108-107 victory, the Spurs improved to 33-26 on the season and 1-4 on the Rodeo Road Trip.
Was this a good win? No. But the Spurs had to have it so at this point beggars can’t be choosers if you’re a fan of this team. An ugly, disheartening win is much better than what the other option held.
For the most part, LaMarcus Aldridge played rather well. He was running the court with purpose, was uber physical in the post, and scratched and clawed his way to 22 points and 11 rebounds. There’s no doubt he should have gotten many more touches than he did. But even when his touches were infrequent, Aldridge admirably kept fighting. Defensively, his protection of the rim was much better than usual. However, his individual defense was lacking and he wasn’t helping out much on the perimeter.
Summary: Aldridge willed the team to victory.
DeMar DeRozan’s funk continues. After shooting the ball exceedingly straight for three straight games, DeRozan managed to miss 14 of his 19 shot attempts against the Grizzlies. To make matters worse, he only had three free throw attempts and five assists in 41 minutes (DeRozan hasn’t recorded more than six assists yet in the month of February). The only tiny sliver of a silver lining on offense was DeRozan wasn’t dominating the action as much as he has in recent games. He was more willing to pass and only turned it over once after turning it over nine times in his previous two outings. Defensively, DeRozan was his typical sub par self but he did, to his credit, sprinkle in a few impressive defensive plays here and there.
Summary: DeRozan couldn’t hit a shot but his night wasn’t quite a 100% failure.
The Spurs would have been in deep, deep trouble without Rudy Gay. Not only did he lead the team in rebounds (12) and assists (season-high eight), he had a handful of momentous defensive plays in the fourth quarter. Gay was also efficient offensively, limited his mistakes and looked good health-wise after missing the previous game with an ankle injury. The Spurs need Gay to stay healthy if they have any hope of having a strong run to close out the season.
Summary: Gay’s impressive season continues.
Bryn Forbes’ offense was choppy for much of the evening. He didn’t have full confidence in himself and seemed to second-guessing his decisions. On this night, his passing was better than his shooting. Defensively, Forbes got scored on a whole lot. But, to be fair, he had stretches where he put his defensive effort into overdrive and was able to help turn the tide on that end of the court. He didn’t swipe half of the team’s six steals by accident and even uncharacteristically applied fullcourt pressure at times.
Summary: Forbes wasn’t too good on either end but his effort on D was commendable.
The good: Davis Bertans poured in 17 points on only seven shots — hitting all four of his three-point attempts and all three of his freebies helped in that matter. His defense out on the perimeter was better than usual. Bertans challenged shots well and moved his feet with quickness when needed. The bad: Bertans needed to let it fly more. He was passing up far too many shots. With Bertans, his mentality can’t be “good to great,” it has to be “eh, good enough.” He’s too good of a shooter with too quick of a trigger to do anything but shoot open-ish shots. Defensively, while he was a positive asset out on the perimeter, he got overwhelmed in the paint too easily and was even less sturdy than usual on the boards.
Summary: Bertans helped but he could have done more.
On one hand, Patty Mills brought the Spurs back from the dead with a strong start to the second quarter. His season-high 22 points were all very much needed (on only 12 shots, no less). Mills had a few wonderful passes and finished the game without a turnover. On the other hand, he gave back almost all of his positives by being a turnstile on defense. His transition defense was particularly feeble. Mills also wasn’t fighting through screens. Especially when Derrick White is out of the lineup, Mills has to give effort on both sides of the court.
Summary: Mills was fabulous on offense. Mills was terrible on defense.
Much like Mills, Marco Belinelli helped resuscitate the Spurs. He was aggressive on offense, ran the court hard and brought some much needed vivacity to that end. Belinelli didn’t quite shoot it as well as Mills, though. And for as bad as Mills was on defense, Belinelli was worse. He couldn’t stay in front of anyone (and when I type anyone, I mean anyone) and the Grizzlies were scoring at will just about any time he stepped on the hardwood.
Summary: Good energy on offense. Couldn’t have played much worse on defense.
Jakob Poeltl was disappointing in nearly all facets. He was soft in the paint, both offensive and defensively. His pick-and-roll defense was putrid. Poeltl’s post defense was poor. On offense, he wasn’t rolling strong enough and, as a result, wasn’t creating passing lanes for the ballhandlers. The only thing Poeltl did decently was rebound the basketball.
Summary: Poeltl will burn the tape before it reaches Austria.
The Spurs were flat for a majority of the game, so I’ll put some of that on Pop’s shoulders. DeRozan played too much, unquestionably. I would rather Gay not play 35 minutes coming off of an injury … but I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.
Summary: Pop just did avoid a loss.
Looking ahead: The Spurs now have nine days off. Let’s hope Aldridge stays healthy as he participates in the All-Star game. Let’s hope DeRozan can rest up and get back to 100%. Let’s hope Derrick White will be back ASAP.
The Spurs still have three more games on the Rodeo Road Trip. The next game is a little trip to Toronto that may draw a few extra cameras. But, for the next week at least, forget about the forthcoming Raptors game and recharge those batteries.