Apr 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) looks to drive to the basket as Indiana Pacers forward JaKarr Sampson (14) defends in the first quarter at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs need to lean on their star in times of crisis
One of the most alarming stories in the NBA over the past few weeks has been the free fall of the San Antonio Spurs. Once firmly in the mix for a playoff spot, the Spurs have lost eight of their last ten and a spot in the play-in seems like the best case scenario at this point.
A lot has contributed to the Spurs’ rough go over this stretch. A compacted schedule, tough competition, and a rash of injuries have worn San Antonio down. Following the Spurs’ loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gregg Popovich, Rudy Gay, and DeMar DeRozan all seemed exhausted. Determined, but exhausted.
The calls for Pop to turn to the young players have gotten louder and louder but in times like these, he tends to turn to the veterans.
This is where the Spurs need to turn to DeRozan. He’s carried teams in the past and with a tough five-game road trip coming up the Spurs are going to need to scrap for every win if they want to avoid missing the playoffs once again.
DeMar has had impressive games even as the Spurs have struggled but they’re going to need him to take it to another level. Here are three things he can do to help stop this losing skid.
DeMar DeRozan needs to dominate the 4th if the Spurs want to win
One of the things that DeRozan has done best in his time in San Antonio is fulfilling a crucial role as the teams closer. He’s over the past season and a half he’s taken a greater playmaking role but when it comes time to put opponents away, DeRozan is the man the Spurs turn to.
He’s still done a good job of that this season. Among players with 20 or more games played, DeRozan ranks 6th in the league in points in clutch situations and 3rd in free throw attempts. Whether it’s from the field or from the charity stripe, DeMar is the man the Spurs want hunting points when they need them most.
But over this slump, DeRozan’s impact in the 4th quarter hasn’t been what it was for most of the season. Up until this skid, DeMar was averaging 5.4 points and 1.2 assists per 4th quarter and was getting to the line an average of 2.5 times per period. Over the last ten games, he’s averaged 3.7 points, 0.8 assists, and 1.1 free throw attempts during the 4th.
It should be mentioned that up until this losing stretch, DeMar was averaging 7.2 minutes of playing time in the 4th compared to the 5.3 minutes he’s averaged in the final quarter over these last ten games but even when you look at things on a per 100 possession basis you can still see a decline.
The point is, the Spurs are going to need DeMar to step up even more in the closing parts of games if they want to have a chance at getting back on the right track.
Next: Be a leader in the locker room
Apr 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) congraluated by guard Patty Mills (8) and forward DeMar DeRozan (10) after scoring and drawing foul in the third quarter of the game agains the Indiana Pacers at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs need DeMar DeRozan’s veteran leadership
After the loss to Cleveland, both Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan stressed the importance of being a professional and continuing to show up and give their best effort. Even as the Spurs struggle you can count on these veterans the help keep everyone locked in on their goals.
That’s something that is going to be crucial on this road trip. The Spurs have done well on the road this season but they shouldn’t be counting on being away from home to bring the same results now as it has in the past, especially with how they’ve been playing.
The NBA season is a grind even in the best of times. For the younger players on the team, this could be the longest, toughest stretch of basketball they’ve faced. Add in the mounting losses and it can be easy to get discouraged or thrown out of a routine.
This is where the veteran presence of players like DeMar DeRozan is so important. In his farewell letter to the Toronto Raptors, Norman Powell talked about the veteran advice he picked up from DeRozan and how it was exactly what he needed during a tough time in his career.
Trust that DeMar is imparting similar advice on the young guys right now and doing what the team needs him to do in the locker room to keep everyone together.
Next: Get things started on the right foot
Apr 5, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots in the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
DeMar can help the San Antonio Spurs by snapping this losing streak tonight
It’s going to take more than one game to break the slump that the San Antonio Spurs have fallen into but they can get a good start tonight when they face the Denver Nuggets. This is a game that the Spurs are going to need to lean on DeRozan for.
The Spurs do get the advantage of facing a Nuggets bunch that just had to play last night but Denver handily dismantled the Detroit Pistons and it’s not a safe bet to rely on tired legs to be your saving grace.
In any case, this isn’t going to be an easy one for San Antonio. The Nuggets have been demolishing opponents since they traded for Aaron Gordon. They’ve got the best offense in the NBA since then and have had the third-best net rating over that span as well. They’ve firmly entrenched themselves as one of the favorites to make it out of the Western Conference.
This feels like a game the Spurs are going to need DeRozan to eat in the mid-range for. With plenty of long, rangy defenders, the Nuggets do an excellent job of walling off the paint. They give up just 44.6 points in the paint per night, the 6th best mark in the league. Without easy looks at the rim, the Spurs are going to have to rely on DeMar to go back to the mid-range for the majority of his points.
In tough times, teams need to be able to rely on their stars to carry them through. This is when the San Antonio Spurs need DeMar DeRozan the most. Let’s see if he can pull them together to snap this losing skid.