Going up against the Utah Jazz reserves, the San Antonio Spurs notched their third win of the Orlando restart with an eight-point victory.
When it was announced that three of the four Utah Jazz starters would rest against the San Antonio Spurs, there was little doubt that a must-win game became a bit easier for the silver and black. Their two-game losing skid put them back at the eleventh seed in the Western Conference with Phoenix and Portland creeping ahead of them. After the 119-111 victory, San Antonio has a better chance to regain some traction.
Led once again by combo guard Derrick White, San Antonio had a generally efficient afternoon. As a team, they shot 50.6 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from the 3-point line. White’s four triples led the Spurs once again en route to a 24-point, six-rebound, four-assist stat line. He was one of six members of the silver and black to reach double-digit scoring in the contest.
Though he didn’t exactly blow anyone away, starting point guard Dejounte Murray filled the stat sheet, as he’s known to do. The 23-year-old posted 11 points, six rebounds and six assists to lead the team in that category. His defensive effort intensified as the game went on and played a crucial part when the Jazz players gained momentum in the fourth quarter.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 7, 2020
It was a quiet game from DeMar DeRozan, who took just 10 shots in 30 minutes. Turnovers were an issue for DeRozan on his 31st birthday, but no one is going to look at him sideways for that.
Without Rudy Gobert in play for the Jazz, San Antonio should’ve done a better job of controlling the glass in this one. Everyone did their part with seven players grabbing at least four boards, but they still lost the battle on the glass by five rebounds. The same can be said about the 3-point shooting battle as the Spurs let the equivalent of Utah’s G-League team shoot 16-for-37 from deep.
Was this the best game of the Spurs’ season? Absolutely not, but they came away with a win that was impacted largely by a solid game from their starting center.
Next: Jakob Poeltl finally steps up at a starter
When the San Antonio Spurs needed him most, Jakob Poeltl showed up.
In what can be argued as his best game of the 2019-20 season, starting center Jakob Poeltl finally caught a break after going up against Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic in back-to-back games. He must’ve heard the outside noise because Poeltl stepped up with a season-high 19 points on 75 percent shooting from the field.
More so than just his scoring, Poeltl asserted himself on both ends of the floor. He double-doubled with 10 boards including four on the offensive glass in addition to three blocks and two assists. The 24-year-old center has some underrated chemistry with the Spurs’ young guards, serving as an exemplary pick-and-roll partner to Dejounte, Derrick and Lonnie Walker IV, who is breaking out as an exceptional passer.
This isn’t the kind of performance you can expect from Poeltl every time out, but it’s not really what the team needs from him. It certainly helps when he’s attacking the rim and converting on his shot attempts. However, Poeltl’s primary role is to defend the rim and greater extra shots for the team. The sprinkle on top is the fact that he’s a wonderful passer who can throw outlet passes, find cutters from the high post and kick out from the paint.
My one complaint is that Poeltl only had one dunk in the entire game. It was a beautiful slam off of a perfectly placed pass from Rudy Gay to extend the Spurs’ lead. That’s the kind of energy we need to see from the seven-footer more often as his physicality doesn’t match his size. If Poeltl can bulk up and take more contact down low, he’s going to be one of the best low-volume, high-impact starters in the league as he progresses.
Next: Popovich unleashed a gorgeous lineup
We caught a glimpse of the San Antonio Spurs’ lineup of the future.
For a brief stretch during the fourth quarter, head coach Gregg Popovich unleashed a lineup that sent shivers down the spines of Spurs fans. He subbed DeMar out of the game to deploy a lineup of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson and Jakob Poeltl. With all of these physical and shifty players in the lineup, the Spurs played up-tempo and shared the ball well.
L O N N I 3 pic.twitter.com/UxwteRhv7F
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 7, 2020
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While the efforts of DeRozan, Gay and the rest of the veterans are appreciated, it’s obvious that the Spurs are using this Orlando restart to prioritize the future. Those players may be a part of it, but San Antonio can ensure that the lineup Popovich deployed is one that they intend to use in the future. It’s a modern group with 3-point shooting threats, slasher galore and four dependable ball-handlers who can find each other with high-IQ passes.
Growing together is going to make this Spurs team a force to be reckoned with when they each mature and reach the heights of their potential. Part of what stood out in those minutes was Walker’s willingness to take shots and assert himself as a go-to scorer. For as much as White has been a revelation for San Antonio, the more natural scorer of the group projects to be Walker in the long run. If he feels comfortable going into “takeover mode” with his younger teammates on the floor, it will bode well for the team’s long-term outlook.
There are many imperfections to work out before we can sign and seal this squad as a playoff contender in the foreseeable future. They need to work on communicating and playing in-sync as a defensive core. While they each have potential as individual defenders, their rotations need work and they need to learn each other’s tendencies better.
Hopefully, Popovich will feel comfortable unleashing this lineup again in the near future.