The San Antonio Spurs used a gritty defensive effort to improve their record to 3-6 on the season on Friday night. Allowing the fewest points they've given up all season, they used 11 steals to help them force the Orlando Magic into 18 turnovers.
The 102-89 win came with a few standout performances. Dejounte Murray remained the team's anchor and one consistent player, putting up 20 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. Keldon Johnson shouted his way into 20 of his own, pulling nine rebounds down in the process.
For today's stud of the game, though, I wanted to recognize the team's veteran, who stepped up in a big way and did all of the little things on the court in Orlando.
San Antonio Spurs Stud: Thaddeus Young - 12 pts, 5 asts, 4 rebs, 3 blks, 2 stls
Friday was easily the best performance of Thaddeus Young's early Spurs career. He received a season-high 26 minutes in the game, and I have a feeling fans will be calling for his playing time to stay around that number in Jakob Poeltl's absence.
Young was everywhere on defense, tallying three blocks and two steals as he hustled to make life difficult for the Magic. After one particular play in which he turned the ball over and immediately came back to force an Orlando turnover, Coach Popovich came over to give him a high five. How often does that happen?
On offense, Thaddeus shot 6-of-7 and seemed to be the only guy on the court not intimated by Mo Bamba's interior presence. There were at least three times he used his veteran savvy to push his body into the 7-foot center and score on a baby hook in the paint.
Young was also second on the team in assists with five, frequently finding slashing guards from the top of the key and demonstrating his improved facilitating skills from last season. All in all, Thaddeus showed just how effective he can be on both ends of the court in this one -- and that could cause for more playing time if he keeps it up.
San Antonio Spurs Dud: Keita Bates-Diop - 0/3 FG, 2 pts
No one really had too bad of an individual game against the Magic, but if I had to nitpick, I'd say Keita Bates-Diop could've done a bit more. Failing to score in his near 15 minutes, he was mostly invisible on both ends of the floor, accumulating just three rebounds and nothing else.
Bates-Diop isn't expected to play a crucial role on this year's squad. His main expectation is to give the Spurs a bit of size at the small forward position when guys like Keldon Johnson need a breather. Still, it would've been nice to see him be a little more aggressive on defense. He and Lonnie Walker were the only two players to have double-figure minutes and not get a single block or steal in the game.
Keita has been steady enough in his limited minutes so far this season. Hopefully, he won't disappear into the background too often if he's going to continue to be a primary backup forward.