The San Antonio Spurs came from behind to beat the New York Knicks 120-111 on opening night in San Antonio.
On opening night, Dejounte Murray showed why he is worth every penny of the contract the San Antonio Spurs signed him too earlier this week. The Spurs star point guard helped lead a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback over the New York Knicks. After looking out of sync for much of the game the Spurs came together late to win 120-111.
The Spurs came out slow but looked in control through the first quarter. But as the game went on the turnovers kept piling up. The sloppy play helped the Knicks stay in this game much longer than they should have. Thankfully the Spurs were able to tighten things up late.
Gregg Popovich elected to go with the same starting lineup that he used in the last few preseason games. LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles held down the paint with Bryn Forbes, Dejounte Murray, and DeMar DeRozan rounding out the starting group.
Aldridge would lead the way in scoring for San Antonio, tallying 22 points on a variety of inside and outside looks. When the Spurs needed a bucket the most they continually counted on Aldridge to be their go-to scorer. Forbes and Murray were San Antonio’s other leading contributors, with 22 and 18 points, respectively.
Murray was the star of the show. He was all over the place disrupting the Knicks offense and attacking the rim on the other end. He showed off a variety of finishing moves and was nearly impossible to stop when he had a bit of speed going.
A deeper look at Murray’s performance is the just the first of the three things that stood out most in the Spurs comeback win.
Next: Dejounte Murray dominates on both ends
Dejounte Murray starts his Most Improved Player campaign
Before he tore his ACL, Dejounte Murray was on the cusp of a great season. Over a year removed from the injury, Murray looked every bit the player had hoped he could be. Fresh off of signing a deal that will keep him in San Antonio for the foreseeable future, Murray showed off every bit of his game in the Spurs win.
Murray’s impressive wingspan allows him to rip down boards and immediately push the ball up the court. He was in full attack mode in the win, regularly flying up the floor, putting Knicks defenders on their heels and finishing through contact.
Defensively he reminded us all why he was named to the NBA All-Defensive team in just his second season. His lateral quickness and ability to constantly stay in front of his man was as impressive as always. Murray’s length also came in handy when he was switched on to one of the Knicks’ larger players, where he consistently held his own.
He didn’t shoot a three until late in the game but when he did it was money.
All together Murray put together a stat sheet stuffing line of 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and three steals. And he did that in just 24 minutes. A dynamic player and the Spurs star of the future, Murray will have plenty of nights where he receives more playing time than that. If he can sustain this level of play he will be a regular triple-double threat. Continuing to play like this will have Dejounte in the drivers seat of the Most Improved Player discussion by seasons end.
The Knicks group of guards isn’t the best in the league but Murray will soon have plenty of opportunities to face off against some of the best in the business. With upcoming games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors, Murray will soon be tested by two of the toughest matchups he will have to face. Just another week in the star-studded Western Conference.
Next: Far too many turnovers
Turnovers almost put a win out of reach
With respect to the Knicks, this game shouldn’t have been nearly this close. San Antonio is the better team but they let sloppy play and turnovers almost cost them the win. They had a similar problem in their final preseason game against Memphis and seems to have followed them to the regular season.
As impressive as Murray was in the season opener, his six assists were nearly offset by four turnovers. Aldridge and DeRozan also contributed four apiece and Rudy Gay chipped in three of the bench. At times it looked like the guys had simply forgotten how to dribble a basketball.
Thankfully the damage wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. While San Antonio led New York in total turnovers 21 to 14, they also led in points off turnovers by a margin of 16. There aren’t many teams you can turn the ball over 21 times against and still win. Thankfully the Spurs were playing the Knicks tonight.
When it mattered most the Spurs were able to pull it together. They wouldn’t commit another turnover the rest of the way after Derrick White‘s errant pass with just under a minute and a half left in the third quarter.
San Antonio is typically a well-disciplined team and one that doesn’t turn the ball over often. Hopefully, their play at the end of the game will stay with them going forward. Still, turnovers will be something to keep an eye on as the season goes on.
Next: DeMar DeRozan's strange night
An off night for DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan is one of San Antonio’s best and most important players but tonight wasn’t his night. At least, not early on. DeRozan had real trouble getting going early. Call it rust or opening night jitters, he didn’t look like himself for much of the game.
He seemed to recognize early on that it wasn’t his night. DeRozan is at his very best when he is attacking, keeping defenders on their heels, and opening up easy opportunities to stop on a dime and connect from mid-range. But after a few early misses, DeRozan went away from attacking and looked content to facilitate for teammates.
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We saw last season that DeMar can be a solid playmaker. But even that wasn’t going for him tonight. He was one of the leading turnover contributors on a night where San Antonio desperately needed to take better control of the basketball.
His saving grace was his ability to consistently get himself to the charity stripe. Even when shots weren’t falling from the floor he had the skill to bait Knicks defenders into easy fouls.
And then, right when the Spurs needed him most, DeMar pulled it together. He looked like his normal self in the fourth, attacking the rim, drawing fouls, and capitalizing from the line. As soon as the fourth quarter it looked like he just flipped a switch and locked in when it was needed most.
DeRozan is typically a very consistent contributor. He, along with Aldridge, forms the base of the Spurs offense and he needs to bring it every night. The development and growth of players like Murray and Forbes will determine how far this team goes but they absolutely need DeRozan to bring it every night. They won’t be able to overcome early disappearances like this often.
- It was interesting to see Trey Lyles get the start. He’s a newcomer but played well in preseason. Maybe it was a matchup based decision or possibly something we should come to expect. Either way, he played well. He knew his role and stuck in it, grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds along the way. If he can ever get his three-point shot to start falling he’s going to be a real dangerous piece of this team.
- Both Lonnie Walker and DeMarree Carrol were tagged with DNP-Coaches Decision. Neither move makes particular sense. Marco Belinelli was the first guard off the bench but hardly contributed. He would end up playing 18 minutes and connecting on a solitary three-point attempt. As a fanbase, we’re all pretty riled up over the promise Lonnie Walker has shown. Until he shows that he doesn’t belong on the court in the regular season we’re going to keep calling for more minutes for him. However, until he receives them we will just have to trust in the judgment of the coaching staff and assume they know something that we don’t.
It wasn’t the prettiest win but looks don’t show up in the win-loss column. The Spurs should be happy to take this win and move forward. They face the Washington Wizards on Saturday before taking on a murderers row of Western Conference contenders over the next two weeks.