The San Antonio Spurs drop a tough one in Portland and depth struggles rear their ugly head for the injury-struck franchise.
The Spurs (1-1) lost in Portland (2-0) on Saturday night to a final score of 121-108, giving the team its first loss on the season. DeMar DeRozan scored a team-high 28 points, matching his total from the Minnesota game, on 11-for-22 shooting. Bryn Forbes added 17 points, including 5-for-8 from three. LaMarcus Aldridge had a quiet game from the offensive end, finishing with 12 points on 6-for-13 shooting in his return to Portland.
To be honest, you could’ve just looked at the final score, known the players involved and known exactly what transpired. The preseason injuries to Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and Dejounte Murray reared their head both in terms of guard play and overall depth.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum feasted; the two combined for 53 points on a similar 9-for-15 shooting each. Several times Lillard took advantage of clever switching onto the slower Jakob Poeltl and took him to town; Lillard then would spot conservative defense by Forbes and drained multiple threes from 25+ feet out.
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Towards the end of the third quarter, the lack of depth was all too apparent and the Blazers extended their lead, finishing the quarter up 15 and having the game on ice.
The second lineup of Patty Mills, Pau Gasol, Marco Belinelli, Davis Bertans and Dante Cunningham was painful to watch. Patty is a fantastic sixth man option for the team; they’re going to struggle immensely with him and Gasol as the leading scoring options for extended periods of game time.
The defense was abhorrent. The Spurs have given up 114.5 ppg in their first two, which isn’t insane given the uptick of 100+ point games this opening week but it’s not a great sign for longterm success.
I wondered when the last time was the Spurs scored 108 and lost in regulation. It was last season. Nine times. When they had the NBA's second-best defense.
I don't know what to make of this information.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) October 21, 2018
The Blazers weren’t just shooting exceptionally (54% from the field, 47% from three); they were getting the shots they wanted.
If all of this sounds remarkably cynical, that’s because the reality of this team to start the season is going to exceedingly reflect their matchups. 1-2 punches at guard like Lillard-McCollum will punish this team. With Western Conference duos like Chris Paul–James Harden, Steph Curry-Klay Thompson, Ricky Rubio–Donovan Mitchell, and Elie Okobo–Devin Booker (I kid…), the Spurs in this current incarnation are guaranteed to struggle on the defensive side of the ball.
I’m going to be resorting to the Spurs: Classic rating scale for game grades this week. For example, a grade of Timmy Duncan is reserved for the truly exceptional performance, the elite of the elite. A grade of Gary Neal… needs improvement (sorry Gary).
As stated, DeRozan matched his total from the other night of 28 points on 50% shooting, including 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. He was one assist shy of a double-double and was incredibly efficient from the offensive end.
His defense left something to be desired, often getting matched up on CJ McCollum who finished with 24 points on 60% shooting. DeRozan is often going to face the secondary match-ups, but he did finish with a couple steals. I’m going to give DeRozan a firm 2008 Tony Parker for this game.
It’s spooky season, so I’ll start by saying that LaMarcus was a bit of a ghost in this game. Get it? We’re all about the obscure references at Air Alamo.
He’s had a mixed (candy) bag in the past against Portland; sometimes he’s raking in Twix and other times his game has looked like Butterfingers (fire me). Seeing him not dominate in this game was odd. Besides the offensive woes, he only scooped up eight rebounds and didn’t look great around the rim.
There were a few plays that he just took off, letting DeRozan work the ISO while he hung out just past mid court. I’m giving Aldridge a 2014 Tim Duncan grade.
Forbes was looking awful Dickens on Saturday, a true Tale of Two Cities. On offense, he shot lights out from three. He played off-ball more often than not, leaving the handling up to DeRozan and moving to his spots. On defense, Forbes looked completely lost.
There’s really no other way to sugarcoat it. He didn’t look like he belonged out there. I don’t even know where the team goes from here with him; it’s going to be tough to mask his defensive struggles going forward. I’m giving his performance a 2006 Brent Barry.
Pau looked awesome off the bench. His defense was pretty tired, as to be expected from a guy in his 18th season in the league. Shooting 4-for-5 from the field and pulling in 4 rebounds in just 17 minutes should be considered a win.
He was the field general on the second unit, directing traffic while sitting back around the rim and hoping a Blazer didn’t get near him. I’m giving Pau Gasol a solid 2018 Pau Gasol. It was just a fitting performance.
The Spurs travel to Los Angeles to take on LeBron and the Lakers on Monday, who may be down a player or two after last night’s shenanigans.