San Antonio Spurs News

Spurs vs. Bulls: What we learned from this game in Week 1

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SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 18: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs goes to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 18, 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 18: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs goes to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 18, 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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SAN ANTONIO, TX – OCTOBER 18: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs goes to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 18, 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 18: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs goes to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 18, 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)

Following the San Antonio Spurs win over the Chicago Bulls, let’s look at the game’s takeaways.

The San Antonio Spurs succeeded in the second game of the regular season, defeating the Chicago Bulls, 87-77. The score stayed close for most of the contest, before the Spurs pulled away in the final quarter, moving them to 2-0.

While only the second game, we’re starting to learn more about the 2017-18 Spurs. From the rotation set up to how players performed, there’s enough to evaluate the team.

What did we learn about the Spurs from their game against the Bulls? Let’s take a look.

LaMarcus Aldridge remains red-hot

LaMarcus Aldridge found the touches he desired in not just the season opener but the second game. Other San Antonio Spurs players put the ball in his hands, whether it was in the post or just outside of the paint. He worked the young, inexperienced Bulls and most found his way, scoring 28 points and 10 rebounds.

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Without Kawhi Leonard, it became Aldridge’s offense for the past two games. Everything went through him which worked well in the first matchup. The same went for the second one, although the team struggled when he was off the floor.

As long as Leonard remains out, Aldridge will be the primary scorer. He looks comfortable, more than he ever has in his two years with the Spurs. Will that remain when the roster gets healthy and his touches decrease? That’s unknown, but with a newfound appreciation for San Antonio, maybe he’ll excel as the No. 2 guy.

LA finishes the first road game with 28 points and 10 rebounds.

His second consecutive double-double. pic.twitter.com/Mpge9axkGR

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 22, 2017

The Spurs haven’t announced Leonard’s status for Monday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, so it may still be Aldridge’s team. Will he lead the offense against players like Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka?

Next: Trouble finding No. 2 scorer

CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 21: Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs attempts a shot in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on October 21, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. 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. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 21: Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs attempts a shot in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on October 21, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. 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. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Difficulties finding the No. 2 scorer

LaMarcus Aldridge started strong and found his rhythm, much like the season opener. He received every touch desired, working the paint and finding those trademark mid-range jump shots. It concluded with a 28-point performance on 12-for-24 shooting.

While Aldridge played well, everyone else failed to find momentum on the offensive end for the most of the game. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter, when Danny Green hit a few shots and Rudy Gay added extra buckets from the second unit.

Before this, the scoring drought was glaring. Whenever Aldridge went to the bench, the Spurs struggled to find momentum against a team they had no business playing down to. No one was hitting 3-pointers (only one made in the game) and open shots were hard to come by.

Pau with the DUNK! He's got 6 points in the 1st half. pic.twitter.com/Z8ECeun9TN

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 22, 2017

Until Kawhi Leonard returns, the No. 2 scorer should be Gay, although he’s coming off the bench. It may not be Pau Gasol, whose minutes have fluctuated in the first two games. That doesn’t leave many options, making Leonard’s eventual comeback needed to push everyone down the scoring chain. It won’t make these droughts look as bad as they did on Saturday and lead to more offensive success, with two go-to players and not just a one-man show.

Next: Lack of playing time for Bertans

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 17: Davis Bertans #42 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball during the preseason game against the Houston Rockets on October 13, 2017 at Toyota Center in Houston, 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 (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 17: Davis Bertans #42 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball during the preseason game against the Houston Rockets on October 13, 2017 at Toyota Center in Houston, 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 (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Davis Bertans not finding playing time

It’s early but the Spurs rotation is developing. Head coach Gregg Popovich used similar lineups from the season opener, including Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay entering the game at the 6:00 mark of the first quarter as a trio of sixth men. Minutes were mostly the same, as well, except for Pau Gasol’s dropping from 29 to 20.

There was one small but interesting change to the rotation, however: the absence of Davis Bertans. He played just four minutes in the season opener but failed to hit the court against the Bulls.

The Spurs ran small ball lineups that stretched the floor for most of the game. That seemed like a way to get Bertans onto the court, not keeping him off. However, Rudy Gay has the backup power forward role as the player that stretches the floor, offering more than the 24-year-old. Versatility, shooting, moves to the basket and ball-handling are just some attributes that Gay offers from the stretch four spot, better than Bertans.

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As long as Gay stays healthy and doesn’t find his performance slipping, he’ll remain ahead of Bertans in the rotation, creating issues for the latter to find playing time. Bryn Forbes even took his spot, getting 16 minutes off the bench to combat the smaller lineups of the Bulls. If that becomes a trend, then the back of the rotation will be interesting to watch play out.

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