There’s no way for the San Antonio Spurs to move on in the 2019 NBA Playoffs without a strong showing from the infamous bench mob.
It’s well documented that the San Antonio Spurs can achieve great heights when their bench players are performing at their best. During the regular season, the Spurs bench recorded the 11th most points for a second-unit in the NBA while connecting on a league-best 39.2 percent of their attempts from three-point range.
The Game 2 collapse that San Antonio suffered came mostly off of a poor effort from the bench unit. With a combination of careless defensive effort and stale shooting, the second unit failed to make a truly positive impact on the game. San Antonio scored just 23 bench points in the night, leaving the brunt of scoring responsibilities to DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Derrick White, who combined for 72 points.
As leader of the bench unit, 13-year veteran Rudy Gay struggled to make a difference matched up against Paul Millsap at the power forward position. Gay finished with the lowest box +/- of any player on Tuesday evening at -18 in 28 minutes. In his postgame press conference, Gay took responsibility for his poor shooting night and promised to be better.
Actions speak louder than words, so Gay’s body language and focus in front of an invigorated AT&T Center crowd will be very telling in regard to San Antonio’s postseason hopes. Regardless of whether he comes off the bench or starts at a forward position, Gay is supposed to be a consistent scoring presence for this team. His participation is key in head coach Gregg Popovich’s ability to stagger minutes between his stars,
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Gay isn’t the only player that needs to step up his game. Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli have been an excellent duo off the pine for Coach Pop this year, but neither player really came to play in Game 2. They combined for 13 points on 10 shots, which is not a terrible mark on paper. On the flip side of things, Belinelli and Mills were targeted by Denver coach Mike Malone and his guard rotation.
As two players that have witnessed what it takes to win a championship firsthand, neither has shown their A-Game in this series thus far. Mills in particular needs to be more aggressive, especially when defending against athletic guards like Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. It’d be nice to see him bring the level of scrappiness that has made him one of the most memorable role players in franchise history.
Last but certainly not least, Davis Bertans needs to do more. His sheer presence opens up for the floor for DeRozan, White and Mills to operate the offense. Defenders are terrified of his three-point prowess, but Bertans hasn’t been particularly aggressive or efficient as of late.
After stealing a game in Denver, the ball is in the Spurs’ court. It’s time to get the job done at home to snag a 3-1 lead heading back to the Mile-High City.