San Antonio Spurs: Good, bad, interesting takeaways from win in Houston

James Harden of the Houston Rockets drives through the San Antonio Spurs (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
James Harden of the Houston Rockets drives through the San Antonio Spurs (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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James Harden of the Houston Rockets drives through the San Antonio Spurs (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
James Harden of the Houston Rockets drives through the San Antonio Spurs (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs found their footing and notched their first win of the preseason with a 128-114 victory over James Harden and the Houston Rockets

There have been glimpses of what this year’s San Antonio Spurs team could look like at various points during the preseason. In yesterday’s win over the Houston Rockets, the Spurs finally put it all together and played their most complete game yet. The results speak for themselves, a 128-114 victory over a team that many are tapping as a Finals contender.

A few key players sat out on both sides and Houston didn’t look fully engaged early on but the win is still a good stepping stone for the Spurs. After being called soft by coach Gregg Popovich early on in the preseason the Spurs came out with more fire last night.

One of the points that we’ve been keen to emphasize in the off-season has been the tremendous defensive potential that the Spurs backcourt has. With Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker the Spurs have the building blocks to assemble a three-headed monster on defense.

If you just look at the box score from this game you would not walk away thinking that the Spurs did a good job of containing James Harden. After all, former MVP put together an impressive 40 point outing. But the individual job that Dejounte, Derrick, and Lonnie all did at times of staying in front of him was impressive.

Consistency and communication will go along way to elevating this team to playing the level of defense that they are capable of but you can see the beginnings of something special. Here are a few other good, bad, and interesting takeaways from the Spurs’ first victory of the preseason.

Next: The good

Russell Westbrook is guarded by Bryn Forbes (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook is guarded by Bryn Forbes (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The guards are really good

The biggest positive takeaway from this solid preseason win was the two-way play of San Antonio’s cohort of young guards. We’ve talked about how the Spurs collection of backcourt talent gives them one of the best young cores in the league. They had it all on display tonight.

With DeMar DeRozan sitting out, Dejounte Murray took over a greater scoring responsibility. Throughout the game, he showed off his expanded range, touch around the rim, and showed why he can be a consistent scoring option for the Spurs. He would finish with 21 points on a very efficient shooting night. We can’t always expect Murray to connect on 72 percent of his shots like he did last night but he’s showing a great feel for knowing when to go for his own buckets and when to create for others.

coming out ? to start the second half!

? NBA League Pass? @1200WOAI pic.twitter.com/R0Yq07yfDF

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 17, 2019

Lonnie Walker has shown a lot of promise but his minutes aren’t guaranteed by any means. That being said, if he continues to play defense like he did last night it will be hard to keep him off the floor. Playing solid defense is always the shortest path to establishing a consistent place in Pop’s rotation. Walker showed that he has the agility and skill to stay in front of Harden when he’s fully engaged. Defense like that will have him playing serious minutes in no time.

Bryn Forbes continues to show why he should be a starter for the Spurs. It wasn’t his most explosive performance but he continues to light it up from outside while making the most of his other opportunities.

Derrick White has struggled throughout the preseason but had a bounce-back game of sorts last night. His 13 point/ 5 rebound/ 3 assist performance off the bench was an encouraging sign for the future. It’s looking like White will be tasked with leading the Spurs second unit. It’s a role that he is perfect for.

Next: The bad

Russell Westbrook of the Houston Rockets. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook of the Houston Rockets. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

A tough night for Westbrook

This isn’t necessarily a bad takeaway for the Spurs but wow was Russell Westbrook off last night. It is just a preseason game so maybe he wasn’t fully engaged but even still. Westbrook would finish the night shooting five for thirteen from the floor and added in eight turnovers and five personal fouls for good measure. All in all, he finished with a plus/minus rating of -26.

The Rockets sold off multiple future picks and Chris Paul for this guy and that’s what they got? He’s played better in their other preseason games but the turnovers have been a consistent problem. It’s something that he will have to tighten up on in the regular season.

Credit to the Spurs defenders, they did a good job harassing Westbrook and Harden all night. We just covered how promising the Spurs group of guards looked on defense. But they still allowed Harden to pour in 40 points.

He is the best scorer in the game and there’s only so much that you can do to contain him on a nightly basis. But there won’t be many nights in the regular or postseason where San Antonio can allow a 40 point game from an opposing player and still come away with the win.

The final bad takeaway was the lack of impact from Trey Lyles. He played 21 minutes and only added two points. He did make up for it a bit with two points, two rebounds, and two assists. But he didn’t even attempt a single field goal! This is preseason, the result doesn’t count, the field goal percentage won’t carry over, put up at least one shot, Trey! He’s not going to force his way into the lineup playing like that.

Next: A few interesting things

DeMarre Carroll of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
DeMarre Carroll of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

An interesting second unit

I was impressed by the impact that DeMarre Carroll was able to have on the game without making a single shot. He rebounded well, was a consistent defender, and moved the ball within the flow of the offense. Despite not registering a single point he finished with a plus/minus rating of +21, the second-highest mark on the team for the evening.

Carroll was a great signing for this team. He fits a position of need, is a reliable three-point shooter, and a hard-nosed defender. Last night was just another showcase of how he can positively impact the game in multiple ways. He’s going to be a key piece of the Spurs bench unit over the coming years.

It’s noteworthy that Dejounte Murray and Derrick White once again didn’t play together. We’ve covered how dangerous this duo could be defensively if they played together but Pop seems determined to keep them running their own groups. It makes sense, they both are most effective with the ball in their hands. Even still it would be nice to at least see how they would play together.

? @SamanicLuka ? pic.twitter.com/cvUNyJGK4Z

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 17, 2019

The final note is on the play of San Antonio rookie, Luka Samanic. He only played in seven minutes but knocked down all of his shots, including the three-pointer shown in the above clip.

He’s going to need to work on filling out his frame and will likely play most of his rookie minutes with the Austin Spurs but the early returns have looked good. It’s still too early to be sure but it looks like R.C. Buford and the front office may have done it again.

Next. San Antonio Spurs: Ranking the young cores in the Southwest Division

We’re just under a week away from the kickoff of the 2019-20 NBA season. The San Antonio Spurs will have one more warmup game until opening night. They take on the Memphis Grizzlies back in San Antonio on Friday night.

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