The Spurs return to the Toyota Center tonight to square against the Houston Rockets for the final matchup of their abbreviated preseason record. San Antonio may be without a win through two games, but show contests like this are more about getting guys back into playing shape and less about picking up trivial wins.
Lonnie Walker IV stole the show, Devin Vassell played as an experienced veterinarian, and Dejounte Murray found his firing blow last time out. And now, Silver and Black will try to sustain that progress as they put together a short-lived roster puzzle into a regular season never seen before.
17 December 2020 | 7:00 PM CT
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Spurs injury: Derrick White (Toe – Out), Keldon Johnson (Foot – Out), Quinndary Weatherspoon (Knee – Out), Keita Bates-Diop (Ankle – Out), Luka Samanic (Illness – Out), Cameron Reynolds (Hamstring – Out) )
Rocket Injuries: Christian Wood (Elbow – Day-to-day), Chris Clemons (Achilles – Outside)
Injury has hit the Spurs harder than most of this season. And the Silver and Black will be without Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Luka Samanic, Quinndary Weatherspoon, Cameron Reynolds, and Keita Bates-Diop for their final show. The last four on that list may not have played much at all, although the first couple seemed to have extended roles.
These notorious absences are especially troubling for a franchise license that seeks to recapture what they found in the NBA Restart. Derrick and Keldon were instrumental in San Antonio’s success in Orlando, and will miss the three-point defense and shooting. While these results will not be easy to reproduce, the Spurs will have to rely on changing their plan to stay away.
Lonnie Walker IV and Devin Vassell have been key winners in the final minutes following injury, and both players responded with brilliant rounds on Tuesday night. The rookie Jones in the second round hasn’t put up attractive stats at rush time, though his vision and defensive ability could earn minutes early in the year.
Veterans will also be a monument in proving just how competitive this short Spurs team can be. And for what people like me might want to see the young heart develop, PATFO seems to prioritize having guys like DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills photography and rubbing.
Taking care of the rock
One of the trademarks of Spurs basketball is their knot for spotting the rock. Do you need confirmation? San Antonio has promised the sixth-least turnout in the NBA since Pop took over as head coach halfway through the 1996-1997 season, and even in a year down, the good guys had a low league number.
That kind of attention to detail was not displayed against Houston as they coughed the ball 20 times Tuesday night. Of course, it ‘s inevitable that preseason play will come with a smashing of rust and building chemistry with new players, but the latter is not as true for the Spurs, who return to most of their roster a season ago.
While Dejounte Murray sent off seven assists against the Rockets, he also conceded five high-game touchdowns. It’s not like one sloppy game from the Spurs is lying right on his shoulder. After all, his players accounted for the other 15 turns, and he can only control so much of the action.
However, with Derrick White out indefinitely to start the regular season, it looks like Dejounte will take on starting guard duties. And if that’s the case, San Antonio Murray needs to clean things up a bit. There are other areas where the 24-year-old common floor can develop as a circulator, but for now, limiting conversion should be a priority.
Accepting the three members
San Antonio immediately improved on the defensive end when Marco Belinelli and Bryn Forbes walked in a free squad this offseason. However, the tracker also came out with a responsibility to replace their impressive three-point production. So far, the Spurs have had no problem filling that gap with donations from across the roster.
The Silver and Black have attempted more than 30 three times in each of their first two preseason rounds, a mark they reached in just 29 of their 71 games a season ago. Not only has Gregg Popovich been increasing the long-term size of his team, but he has infamously demanded that they take on three more than we’ve seen before.
Popovich says some 3 hits were awarded and wants to see more effort. #GoSpursGo
– JeffGSpursZone (@JeffGSpursZone) 16 December 2020
The rest of the NBA has continued to welcome basketball at a fast pace with no setbacks, and San Antonio began to catch that move in the bubble. They seem to be planning to carry that strategy into a new season, and while the integration of LaMarcus Aldridge has not been unheard of, the fact that the big man has built 14 threes proves that he tries to get inside.
It’s weird to see the Spurs put pressure on shooting three points so big, and to be honest, if it weren’t for the name on the front of their jerseys, I might have been fooled for the Rockets Tuesday night. This move doesn’t seem like a gimmick in philosophy, so expect San Antonio to keep firing away from outside the arc in their preseason weekend.