The San Antonio Spurs lost a nailbiter to the Miami Heat at the AT&T Center on Friday. Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and Victor Olidipo were out for the Heat, and the Spurs were resting Tre Jones, Jakob Poeltl, and Al-Farouq Aminu.
Despite being down by 19 in the first half, the Spurs battled back and exchanged 28 lead changes with the Heat, nearly all of which came in the fourth quarter. Even though the Spurs lost, most of the takeaways and lessons learned that can be applied moving forward are positive, and Spurs fans should be very optimistic as the preseason passes the midway point.
1. Luka Samanic Had a Poor Start But a Strong Finish
Luka Samanic had 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, which is perfectly average. He only made appearances in the first and fourth quarters, but the growth throughout the game was very evident.
Luka started the game by losing the ball twice on back-to-back possessions, one of them for a turnover. When he had the ball on the perimeter with no clear lane to the basket, “bewildered” is a very kind way to describe his playstyle. He looked absolutely panicked. Popovich immediately pulled him for the remainder of the game until crunch time, seemingly for no reason other than to give him some minutes to avoid him complaining after the game, but Samanic showed out.
In the fourth quarter, Luka was an absolute baller. He knocked down a three, hit two crafty layups, and didn’t turn the ball over once. He looked like a pro and if that’s the way he plays this season, then move over Jakob and Jock, there’s a new sheriff in town. Under the basket, he only grabbed four rebounds, but he was throwing himself out there for every single missed shot, wrestling and jumping without any of the timidness that has made him linger in Austin.
Luka only had one block, but his interior defense looked amazing, as he brought the same effort to the defense that he did rebounding. Based on last night’s performance, Luka Samanic should be considered the starter for the remainder of the preseason and get as many minutes as possible. His role can be reassessed once the regular season starts, but as of now, there’s no reason he can’t be a very important contributor.