After a tragic outcome in the previous outing, the San Antonio Spurs toppled the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 on a career-night for Derrick White.
Failure is not an option in the playoffs, and it’s evidently clear that it’s not an option in the mind of combo guard Derrick White either. After getting showed up by Jamal Murray in the fourth quarter of Game 2, the San Antonio Spurs’ breakout star dropped a career-high 36 in a 118-108 victory on Thursday evening.
The Spurs finally returned to form, making 48.9 percent of their attempts from the field including 7-of-18 shots from three-point land. Don’t let White’s huge outing distract you from the fact that the team locked in as a whole tonight. Denver took a commanding lead in the second quarter that was quickly squandered by San Antonio’s meticulous execution after a timeout.
Denver put together a solid outing themselves with 31 team assists and an extremely efficient shooting line. They made 15-of-29 three-point attempts and connected on 51.9 percent of their field goal attempts in the outing. Six Nuggets finished in double figures, but it ultimately came down to their failure in the turnover battle.
San Antonio’s star players showed up and showed out once again tonight as DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge combined for 43 points in the contest. DeRozan was particularly effective, finishing with a loaded stat line of 25 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals in 38 minutes. His reliability is crucial to this team’s ability to build and maintain leads.
There’s a lot to break down in this one, so let’s get to it.
Next: Oh Mama, Derrick White is a bad man
Oh Mama, Derrick White is a bad man
You can’t tell the story of the 2018-19 San Antonio Spurs without emphasizing just how impressive sophomore guard Derrick White has been. As a keen decision-maker with excellent passing vision, White has put his name on the map as an effective two-way player.
Tonight’s performance, however, is unlike anything White’s ever shown before.
With complete control of the game from start to finish, Derrick White posted a plentiful stat line with 36 points on 15-of-21 shooting along with five assists, five rebounds, three steals and a block.
He posted a game-best mark in plus/minus at +30 and managed to do so while taking care of the ball nicely. He committed only one turnover in 33 minutes as the primary playmaker; it’s rare for a young player to maintain such poise and maturity as a floor general in the playoffs.
Coach Pop's first response to a question about Derrick White, who dropped a career-high 36 pts in Game 3:
"Eh, he's OK." ? pic.twitter.com/ykKVQSNv5H
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 19, 2019
Moving forward, Derrick White is going to be viewed very differently in the NBA community. Even within the fan base, it’s plain to see that he’ll be an important part of this team’s long-term future. Average players will forget to key in on defense while they’re shooting like White did tonight, but that’s simply not the case for the rising talent.
There were fourth quarter antics in play for Jamal Murray, who was held to just 2-of-6 shooting for six points, two assists and four turnovers. For the second time in the three games in this series, White completely outplayed Murray, who is highly regarded young player around this league.
26 of White’s 36 points game in the first half, mostly because someone else decided to take on the scoring load coming out of the halftime break…
Next: The curse of Playoff DeMar is a misconception
The curse of Playoff DeMar is a misconception
Maybe he’s had some blunders in the playoffs before, and it may be difficult to wholly trust that he’ll make the right decisions in close games, but DeMar DeRozan has been superb for the Spurs in the Playoffs thus far. His poor shooting in the Game 1 has been erased by back-to-back games of 25 points or more.
The star shooting guard exploded in the third quarter for 19 of the Spurs’ 27 points in the quarter on 7-of-8 shooting. He didn’t start the game too well but turned on the jets in the second half to take the pressure off of White and lead his team to the promised land.
DeMar’s ability to contort his body in such a way that he draws fouls with ease has effectively forced Denver to play hesitant defense. DeRozan made 7-of-8 shots from the charity stripe and is shooting 88 percent on 25 attempts in the series.
On the defensive side of the ball, DeRozan has taken strides from the player that he was in Toronto. He’s got active hands and an underrated defensive IQ, which has been off-putting for youthful Nuggets backcourt. He snagged three steals in Game 3 and set the tempo for the rest of his team by using his leaping ability to intercept passes along the way.
Playoff DeRozan was coined as a bad thing with his previous team, but there’s a certain level of competitiveness that’s required of you when you’re a San Antonio Spur. Attention to detail is emphasized and you’re forced to be the best version of yourself.
Whether you’re ready to admit it or not, that’s exactly what we’re witnessing with the progression of DeMar DeRozan in San Antonio.
Next: Filling in the gap and attacking the glass
Filling in the gap and attacking the glass
While White and DeRozan will get the headlines, tonight’s victory was the culmination of team-wide effort. San Antonio took control of the glass, grabbing 45 boards to Denver’s 37 including 15 on the offensive glass. The Spurs’ frontcourt made all the difference in the backboards as both LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay double-doubled in the contest.
Aldridge finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds including four on the offensive glass, and tied for a team-high five assists. His shooting woes continued with the Nuggets double-teaming him frequently, but Aldridge made a noticeable difference in his approach. Instead of forcing shots, he took a page out of Nikola Jokic’s book and set up his teammates for easy buckets. Even in a poor shooting night, LaMarcus anchored the team and finished at +27 in 34 minutes.
As for Rudy Gay, it was another difficult shooting night that was made up for with an improved motor. He posted an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double in 24 minutes while hitting 2-of-8 shots and 6-of-8 free throws. This was the first career double-double for Gay in the playoffs.
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For the Spurs to win with Gay playing struggling to score is a true testament to the rest of this team’s determination in Game 3.
His stats don’t jump off of the box score, but Jakob Poeltl has been incredible in this series. He’s draped himself over Jokic constantly throughout the series and is proving to Gregg Popovich that he’ll be a reliable rim defender for years to come. He posted 10 points, seven boards with five on offense, three assists and a steal. Poeltl played 31 minutes, the most of his playoff career.
Patty Mills didn’t have a good night on paper, but he played rugged defense against Denver’s talented guards and came up with some big plays down the stretch to put the Nuggets away. The same goes for Marco Belinelli, who played 17 minutes and hit two of his three shots from outside.
Game 4 takes place on Saturday afternoon; a Spurs win would put them in great position to secure a place in the Western Conference Semifinals.