San Antonio Spurs News

Spurs defeat Kings, 113-93: What we learned from this preseason game

By Rob Wolkenbrod
SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 6: Rudy Gay #22 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on October 6, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 6: Rudy Gay #22 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on October 6, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
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SACRAMENTO, CA – OCTOBER 2: Skal Labissiere #7 of the Sacramento Kings shoots the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during the preseason game on October 2, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA – OCTOBER 2: Skal Labissiere #7 of the Sacramento Kings shoots the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during the preseason game on October 2, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Sacramento Kings in the second preseason game of the month. What were the takeaways from Friday night’s performance?

On Friday night, the San Antonio Spurs had their first preseason home game. It came four nights after their loss to the Sacramento Kings, who was their opponent for this second matchup at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.

The Spurs prevailed in this game, 113-93, with a red-hot second-half performance. Players like Patty Mills, Danny Green and Joffrey Lauvergne stepped up to lead the team to the victory.

While only a preseason game, it provided some insight into how the Spurs could look for the 2017-18 season. Are there concerns? What questions linger or were answered on Friday night?

Let’s look at what we learned from this win against the Kings.

Difficulties guarding an athletic frontcourt

In the preseason opener, the San Antonio Spurs centers and power forwards struggled to cover the athletic big men the Sacramento Kings put on the court, mostly Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere. Neither were premier big men in the 2016-17 season, but had their way against the Spurs, using their athleticism to get around Joffrey Lauvergne, Pau Gasol and Amida Brimah and find easy baskets.

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Friday’s game wasn’t different, as Cauley-Stein, Labissiere and even Georgios Papagiannis delivered quality performances in limited time. They combined for 37 points on 18 for 30 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds. No one played more than 29 minutes.

These aren’t dominating numbers but a showcase of an efficient performance for all three big men. With the lack of depth at center and power forward, this might be an issue for the Spurs to start the season, at least on the defensive end. Aldridge can move around the court and is a big body on defense, but Gasol is aging and Lauvergne is still a question mark on the opposite end of the court.

On Sunday, the Spurs will face Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic, another athletic frontcourt pairing. This should better indicate the state of the Spurs’ interior defense.

Next: Rudy Gay's tole

SACRAMENTO, CA – OCTOBER 2: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts to a play against the Sacramento Kings during the preseason game on October 2, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA – OCTOBER 2: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts to a play against the Sacramento Kings during the preseason game on October 2, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rudy Gay’s role

Rudy Gay made his anticipated San Antonio Spurs debut on Friday. It was his first game since rupturing his Achilles in January, an injury that caused issues for plenty of players before him. So this preseason game marked the start of the road to getting into in-game shape.

Gay received the start at small forward, while Kyle Anderson and Kawhi Leonard sat out. He played 18 minutes, scoring four points on two-of-four shooting, while grabbing three rebounds and racking up one assist.

This game allowed the UConn product to shake off the rust and build some confidence. Unfortunately, it did not establish his role or hint at what it could be for the upcoming season. That’s due to Anderson and Leonard not playing, which means it’s impossible to gauge what Gregg Popovich will want from him, once the team is healthy.

First half ✔️ pic.twitter.com/tuvACeYaDm

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 7, 2017

If Anderson plays on Sunday, there will at least be some indication of the plan for Gay. Popovich potentially starts one and benches the other, which would let everyone know who the first small forward will be off the pine when Leonard returns. An eye should be kept on the amount of minutes they play, too.

Next: Dejounte Murray is still starting

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 1: Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Indiana Pacers during the game on March 1, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 1: Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Indiana Pacers during the game on March 1, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dejounte Murray is still starting

Two games passed for the San Antonio Spurs, with questions that remained unanswered. One that received some clarity is the starter at point guard. It looked like a battle between Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray, at least before training camp started at the end of September. That doesn’t look like the case anymore.

Murray received the start in both preseason games. His offensive upside did not come through, and neither did his defense in the first contest. However, Game 2 was different on the opposite end of the floor, as he racked up three blocks and one steal in just 20 minutes.

Despite the impressive performance, it doesn’t look like Popovich is widening the gap between him and Mills, who shined with 15 points and six assists off the bench in 21 minutes.

? @DejounteMurray https://t.co/BMLzbJ3s0r

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 7, 2017

Is this even a competition, however? Mills is in an identical role from 2016-17, as the primary scorer off the bench. It could be temporary until Leonard returns and pushes Gay to the bench, but after a disappointing Western Conference Finals as the starter, maybe this is the permanent role for the Aussie guard for the 2017-18 season.

Next: The bench battle

SAN ANTONIO, TX – OCTOBER 6: Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs goes to the basket against the Sacramento Kings on October 6, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – OCTOBER 6: Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs goes to the basket against the Sacramento Kings on October 6, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

If there’s a battle for bench minutes at guard, it’s a tight race

Manu Ginobili has a spot on the San Antonio Spurs bench, which is guaranteed for as long as he continues his playing career. Outside of him and Patty Mills, nothing looks certain for the guards off the bench, especially with Friday night’s game.

Bryn Forbes, Derrick White and Brandon Paul all played between 15 and 21 minutes. They all scored either eight or nine points, while two of three made a 3-pointer (White didn’t).

If these three are battling for minutes, it’s as the third-string shooting guard and at the end of a potential 10-man rotation. This could leave an odd man out, potentially sending someone like White to the G-League.

Dunk on 'em Brandon! pic.twitter.com/Hu7yDFma5U

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 7, 2017

However, no one seems to have an edge on the competition. That makes the final three games crucial for someone to stand out, if anyone does. If no one stands tall, then the edge could go to Paul and the guaranteed contract the Spurs gave him in the offseason. Forbes is the other option if the Spurs take into account his impressive Summer League.

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This is one of the few position battles the Spurs have. It won’t make any highlight reels or headlines, but should be an interesting follow as the end of the bench shapes up.

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