On Monday, the San Antonio Spurs looked to sweep the Chicago Bulls in the season series after taking a victory in San Antonio last month. The Spurs led most of the second half, at one point by seven, and entered the fourth quarter up by three. It looked like the Spurs were in control after getting cooling Coby White and Nikola Vucevic down after the first frame, but then DeMar DeRozan did what he’s been doing all season and decided Chicago was not going to lose the game.
The Spurs were not supposed to win the game. The Bulls are one of the best teams in a stacked Eastern Conference and the Spurs are not even guaranteed a play-in spot. The close effort ultimately fell short, but the San Antonio squad looked like a competitive team throughout the game, and Chicago’s effort is a testament to the Spurs’ talent for developing even established veterans.
Even though they came up short, there are three positives from the loss in Chicago.
1. Lonnie Walker is Feeling Good After the Trade Deadline
Despite our calls to move on from Lonnie Walker, the San Antonio Spurs kept their fourth-year project/spark plug, and in very limited time, it looks like keeping Lonnie in place has been paying off. Walker led the Spurs in scoring with 21 points, shot 2/4 from deep and 9/17 overall, and looked cool, calm, and collected while doing it.
Lonnie Walker and Josh Primo were the only two Spurs to play 20-plus minutes and not record a single turnover, which is crazy considering they are the two most undisciplined passers on the team. Walker provided excellent scoring off the bench and was a key reason the Spurs were able to keep it so close with such a good team.
The only weak spot was his free throw shooting, where he only hit one of four. However, three points would not have altered the outcome of the game, so for once, we can overlook Lonnie’s mistakes.
This is not a call to throw him in the starting lineup to give Josh Primo and Tre Jones fewer minutes in favor of continually developing Walker, who has become a bit of a liability every time he steps on the court. However, he was given a vote of confidence when he was not traded away at the deadline, and it looks like he is making the most of what appears to be a fresh start to the season.
In three games since the deadline, he is averaging 13.3 points and shooting 51% from the field, both significantly higher than his season averages. He is doing this in the same amount of minutes he received before the deadline, so even though Primo is splitting the minutes Devin Vassell left the bench when he moved to the starting five, Walker is showing some improvement.
Three games are too small a sample size to make hardline judgments, but it looks like Walker is playing with the confidence he needed to find. His Sixth Man of the Year campaign is long over, but that doesn’t mean he won’t bring his A-game for the final part of the season.