The San Antonio Spurs didn’t have a year to remember, but some of the plays they made during the season are hard to forget.
In a year unlike any other, the San Antonio Spurs finally had their playoff streak snapped in a shortened 2019-20 season. The reality seemed to set in for the club over the offseason, with plenty of talk about needed changes surrounding training camp. As the year winds down and a new season begins, I wanted to take some time to reflect on some bright spots in an otherwise dark year.
From their season tipoff in October to their final game in the Orlando bubble, the Spurs’ season lasted an unprecedented 296 days with a 144-day break in between. Despite playing nine fewer games than they’re used to, they still had several “jump out of your seat” moments highlighted by one that was widely regarded as the best play in the NBA by many outlets.
While I’ll be saving that play for last, here my handpicked choices for the top 10 San Antonio Spurs plays made in the 2019-20 season, complete with commentary:
10. Dejounte Murray’s Miracle Shot
Dejounte Murray can tend to drive without knowing exactly what he’s going to do once he’s at the rim. This is one of those cases where it worked out — somehow. In the second quarter of a 121-112 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder last November, Murray drove into the paint and was met by two defenders, leading him to stumble and do this:https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/11/07/0021900113/188/e6011d10-5cc9-5fe0-51de-3a0d4d1c431c_1280x720.mp4
It’s not every day you make a shot while your body is parallel to the ground, but Dejounte managed to do just that in the first meeting between the two teams last season.
Next: The Countdown Continues
9. Trey Lyles Has a Circus Shot of His Own
In a strangely similar shot to Dejounte’s, Trey Lyles showed off his own bag of tricks against the Orlando Magic in a narrow February win at home. Down by four, the Spurs headed the other way on a fast break when Lyles ran to the wing to gain momentum into his drive.
Receiving a timely pass from Murray, Lyles put James Ennis in a blender, spinning off him in the paint, stumbling, and just tossing the ball up. The result was this:https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/02/29/0021900893/537/8e649dd8-df01-99a4-9dcf-0dec904b1258_1280x720.mp4
The play was a huge momentum boost for the Spurs, probably because no one knew Lyles had any of that in his game. San Antonio went on to win 114-113.
8. Lonnie’s Back-to-front Alley-oop Finish
It’s hard to argue with the fact that Lonnie Walker is the most exciting player on the San Antonio Spurs. His athleticism is off the charts and his basketball intelligence is only growing with each passing game. Still, nothing beats watching Walker in the open court.
In the second quarter of what turned out to be a dominant victory, the Spurs forced a turnover that ended up in the hands of Rudy Gay. With three teammates on either side, Gay spots Walker getting the slip on Derrick Rose — and that’s all she wrote.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/12/28/0021900481/186/6477b4e3-bb2c-5fdc-f4f2-0ed5f5c95127_1280x720.mp4
What follows is the rare alley-oop from the top of the key to a player in stride facing the same direction. I can’t recall seeing this type of finish often in my years of watching the NBA, so it definitely earns a decent spot on this countdown.
Next: No. 7 - 5
7. DeMar DeRozan Channels His Inner Kobe
Who knows what got into DeMar DeRozan when the Spurs met the Washington Wizards last October, but he put on a show at home. In the midst of putting up 26 points and leading San Antonio to a two-point win, DeMar had three separate highlight dunks, with this one being the most impressive of all.
Upon catching an inbound pass from Rudy Gay in the corner, DeMar makes a lightning-quick move along the baseline to beat Thomas Bryant to the bucket. Not quite having the angle to finish on his side of the rim, DeRozan takes two hard steps and glides to the other side to hammer a dunk down one-handed.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/10/26/0021900033/419/90317a8a-e2bb-3f42-d13b-a349686dc5e5_1280x720.mp4
As a bonus, here’s one of DeMar’s other dunks in that game that was just as nasty. There was definitely some extra fire in him on this night.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/10/26/0021900033/337/4c910629-8476-a831-2616-068174bcfd00_1280x720.mp4
6. Walker Defends, Dives, and Dishes
The first Spur to make a second appearance on this list, Lonnie Walker impresses this time with his pure Ginobili-esque hustle. Any time you sacrifice your body and dive to the hardwood, you’ll get kudos from your teammates and the crowd alike.
In this play, Lyles and Walker join forces to cause a turnover that leads to a halfcourt scramble with Lonnie at the center of it all. As the ball pops out toward San Antonio’s half of the court, Lonnie takes a big step and dives for the loose ball, making an impeccable bounce pass to Rudy Gay after the gather.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/03/02/0021900908/433/9c0c6828-6e6a-093a-de48-618cd9c809c5_1280x720.mp4
The Spurs would fall to Indiana 116-111, but this play was still one for the books.
5. Patty Mills Caps off a Masterful Performance
The Spurs have been absolutely dominant over the Phoenix Suns in the last decade, winning 21 of the previous 28 matchups. In a December showdown from Mexico, Patty Mills made sure the trend stayed that way.
Mills couldn’t be stopped all game long, burying six threes on the way to 26 points and some huge shots down the stretch. None were bigger than this one that sealed the win for San Antonio with just 0.3 seconds left on the clock.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/12/14/0021900380/811/31b18b3a-dabf-1ae9-43b4-ea87927a1656_1280x720.mp4
Mills has already been warning us about how determined he is to come back better than ever this season, and we’re all ready for it.
Next: No. 4 - 2
4. Lonnie Makes Lyles Leap with Joy
There’s a reason I prefaced this post with the bit about Lonnie being the most fun-to-watch Spur on the roster. In yet another countdown appearance, Lonnie crosses halfcourt to see a three-on-five disadvantage. Then again, it’s Lonnie in the open court.
Walker uses a simple crossover combined with a burst of speed to fly to the basket, throwing down a massive, one-handed, angry dunk. The slam itself is beautiful to watch, but what makes it even better is the reaction of the normally-reserved Trey Lyles followed by a smiling Walker running back on defense.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/03/02/0021900908/484/c41ba0e2-e11c-50d3-74f2-0d5c00b7d768_1280x720.mp4
Something tells me Lonnie might not quite be done on this countdown yet.
3. Dejounte Schools the Young One
I’ll be upfront with something: sometimes I find the crossover knockdown move can be a bit overrated. There are many times where the attacking player steps on the defender’s shoe or the defender is thrown off balance by a pick or teammate and it still makes SportsCenter’s Top 10 due to him falling down.
That said, this play by Dejounte Murray was not one of those cases. There are no two ways about it, Murray has a planted Trae Young in his path when he makes his move to the cup, and, well, here’s what happened.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/01/17/0021900624/43/4c8ea3e4-f7ec-3fee-4470-b15fc7093fd6_1280x720.mp4
Once again, the move itself was world-class, but it’s the reactions of Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson that make the highlight even funnier. As Sean Elliott would say, I think there’s something on the floor Young had to pick up after this move.
2. Lonnie Walker Blows the Roof off of the AT&T Center
There’s no way I can get through this countdown without a highlight from the Spurs’ best game of the year. I was personally in the arena to witness the insane comeback by the Spurs led by Mr. Walker, and I have a hard time thinking back to a time I’ve heard a Spurs crowd get that loud.
In what will forever be regarded as his breakout party, Lonnie scored 28 points and was +29 in plus/minus to lead a furious San Antonio comeback over James Harden and the Houston Rockets last December.
After already making several huge fourth-quarter buckets, Walker saved his best for last with this timely three to tie the game at 115.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/12/03/0021900303/685/0cd988cb-96ca-cd58-7573-9bd30c525c12_1280x720.mp4
The Spurs’ 135-133 double-overtime win was easily the most entertaining and satisfying win of the year, and it was thanks mostly in part to the heroics of Lonnie Walker.
In a recent media day session, Walker explained to Kens 5 how it was Patty Mills that gave him the confidence to fire away with the game on the line.
“If you watch during that, Patty’s telling me to come,” said Walker. “I was actually gonna go straight to the corner and let DeMar or Patty do their thing for the final shot, but it was Patty who kinda gave me that confidence to shoot it. He was like, ‘come on, you done brought us back,’ so as soon as he handed it off to me my mind was already made, I knew what I wanted to do, and thank God it went in, because if it hadn’t shoot, Coach Pop would’ve chewed me out.
Good call, Patty. Even better shot, Lonnie.
Next: No. 1
1. DeMar DeRozan makes Chris Boucher Re-evaluate his Whole Life
DeMar DeRozan has been known to posterize guys with some particularly offensive dunks, but the one he had in Toronto last season topped them all. In a return visit to Toronto last January, the Spurs were well on their way to being blown out by the defending NBA champions until one moment shifted the game’s momentum completely.
With less than four minutes left in the third and the Spurs down 17, DeRozan lulled his perimeter defender to sleep at the top of the key, drove inside, cocked back, and stole Chris Boucher’s life from his body. Pay attention to the reaction of the road crowd.
If you pause at the exact right moment between 17 and 18 seconds, you can see where Boucher’s soul momentarily leaves his body. Even DeMar’s own teammate, Drew Eubanks, couldn’t look on any longer, having to be comforted by Jakob Poeltl on the bench.
— JeffGSpursZone (@JeffGSpursZone) January 13, 2020
The dunk triggered a Spurs’ run that would see them come all the way back from an 18-point deficit to snatch a 105-104 victory in ScotiaBank Arena.
DeMar’s power slam finished as the third-best dunk as rated by NBA.com and the fifth-best play overall in the 2019-20 season. Cheers to another season of emphatic dunks, clutch shots, and hustle plays from the Silver and Black in 2020-21.