Apr 21, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) controls the ball against Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn (25) in the second quarter at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s what stood out in the San Antonio Spurs loss to the Miami Heat
For a while, things were going well for the San Antonio Spurs in their Wednesday night matchup with the Miami Heat. After solid road wins against the Suns and Pacers, it looked like the Spurs were getting some of their mojo back. Getting 20-pieced by the Heat on their home court put a pin in those hopes.
The Spurs opened the game on back-to-back triples from Keldon Johnson and Dejounte Murray. That’s a rarity for them and at the time I thought this could be a hot night for the Spurs shooters.
San Antonio played well through the first half. They were winning the three-point battle, DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White were dealing out assists, and Jakob Poeltl was holding down the paint with excellent defense. They went into the locker room with a 53-51 lead over the Heat.
Then the Heat came out and killed the Spurs in the second half. A -15 point differential in the 4th quarter alone was the icing on the cake for San Antonio.
This is a game that we can partially chalk up to scheduling. The Spurs just played four games in six days, with two of them on the road. You could see the exhaustion in their play last night. Players looked like they were moving in molasses and the spark the Spurs need to mount a comeback just wasn’t there.
Still, every game has a few standout moments that grab your attention. Here are three from Wednesday’s loss to Miami.
Derrick White puts his body on the line for the San Antonio Spurs
One of the things that has helped endear Derrick White to San Antonio Spurs fans is his willingness to put himself in harm’s way to help the team. Getting on the floor, going after loose balls, playing hard defense, and drawing charges have never been issues for White. And last night was no different.
As Bam Adebayo flew down the lane and prepared to take off, White slid himself between Bam and the basket and got ready to take a charge. Adebayo proceeded to elevate and slam the ball over White, hammering home a poster dunk that made the Heat bench get out of their seats. The refs even called a blocking foul on Derrick in the process.
But Gregg Popovich was having none of it. He challenged the ruling on the court and the refs agreed with him, overturning the ruling and calling a charge on Adebayo.
I mean thank god this one went in White’s favor, that could’ve been a really tough poster to be put on. Instead, it brings White up to 11 drawn charges this season, tying him for fifth-highest in the NBA.
This is par for the course for Derrick. Since the All-Star break, he’s been averaging 0.4 charges per game, the fifth-highest rate in the league. He’s chipped teeth and been bodied along the way but he just keeps putting himself in situations to help the Spurs with gritty plays. You have to appreciate a guy like that.
Next: Devin Vassell glued to the bench
Apr 21, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich yells out to players in the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Devin Vassell finds himself glued to the San Antonio Spurs bench, again
I don’t want to sound like a broken record but what the heck does Devin Vassell have to do to earn more playing time? When the Spurs rested guys against Phoenix and Vassell was there to step up I thought he might be earning his way back to the rotation. It looks like I was wrong.
After that game, Vassell emphasized playing defense, grabbing rebounds, and having a “next man up” mentality. All great talking points, all things you love to hear from a rookie, but let’s not overlook what he was able to do scoring the ball either.
Against the Suns, Vassell had 18 points on 7/9 shooting from the floor and 4/6 shooting from behind the arc. Now that’s what I call efficiency. But that hasn’t changed a thing for him over the past two games.
In Indiana, Vassell got just over three and a half minutes of run. Last night he got just over four. Given how the Spurs were playing, how tired their guys looked, that’s inexcusable. Maybe Vassell is more exhausted than Rudy Gay or Patty Mills but those two looked absolutely gassed out there last night and I find it hard to believe that the young guy who barely played two days before wouldn’t have a bit more fuel in the tank.
When is Gregg Popovich going to come around and play Devin Vassell the minutes he deserves? I don’t think anyone’s asking for him to be in the starting lineup tonight but four-ish minutes a night is not nearly enough.
Next: Spurs continue to get blown out from behind the arc
Apr 21, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) shoots over San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) in the final seconds of the second quarter at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs cannot defend the three-point line at home
One disturbing trend that has stood out this season is how poorly the San Antonio Spurs have defended the three-point line at the AT&T Center. It didn’t take long for us to notice that the Spurs played better on the road but their three-point defense at home has been a particular eyesore.
Last night, the Spurs won the three-point battle in the first half. But when the game was over, the Heat had taken the lead, rattling home 13 three-point shots on a cool 42 percent shooting from behind the arc as a team.
On the season, the San Antonio Spurs have seen opponents shoot 40 percent from behind the arc in the AT&T Center, a figure that drops to 35 percent when the Spurs are on the road. On an average night, that amounts to nearly an eight-point swing. That’s easily been the difference between a few wins and losses for San Antonio.
Having a strong homecourt advantage has been something that the Spurs have prided themselves in for decades now. But maybe the absence of a packed house is impacting the on-court product more than we think. Or maybe there’s a larger issue at play here. In any case, San Antonio is going to need to tighten up around the arc if they want to make the playoffs.
If there is a silver lining here, it’s that if the Spurs do make the playoffs they’re not going to have homecourt advantage. And for once, that might actually be a good thing.
The San Antonio Spurs don’t have much time to focus on what went wrong and what went right against Miami, they’ve got to gear up to face the Detroit Pistons tonight.