The new-look Spurs showed some promise and room for improvement.
The Spurs officially opened the 2018-19 NBA (pre)season with a 104-100 win over the Miami Heat. After a back-and-fourth first half, the Spurs gradually pulled away and led by as many as 16, 87-71, early in the fourth quarter before the Heat’s third stringers closed to within four on a 12-0 run. However, the training camp Spurs staved off the run and secured a victory.
Rudy Gay led the Spurs with 13 points on 5-6 shooting (his only miss was an attempted circus dunk). Joining him in double figures was Derrick White with 12 points, while Davis Bertans and LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 10 apiece. Hassan Whiteside led the Heat with a 20-point, 13-rebound double-double.
- Sure enough, this broadcast featured the Heat’s announcing crew. For whatever reason the Spurs just don’t televise their preseason games, but Miami does, which is probably the only reason we even got to see this game in the first place. Granted it’s only the preseason, but they weren’t bad! My only complaint was how many different pronunciations they had for Jakob Poeltl.
- The starting line-up was the one we will mostly see on opening night of the regular season: Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Gay, Aldridge, and Pau Gasol. While the first score — a classic high-low from Gasol to Aldridge — was familiar, it is obvious this group needs time to find some cohesiveness. Aside from 8 points on 3-3 shooting from Gay in the first quarter, the rest of the group started the game 2-9 from the field, shooting almost entirely from the midrange and on unassisted turnaround jumpers.
- The initial second unit featured Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli, Bertans and Poeltl. While a hot-shooting Heat squad showed some of the challenges this group will face defensively (especially on the perimeter), they were much more in-sync offensively, hitting 5-12 shots in the first quarter and spotting the Spurs a 29-28 lead.
- White got Mills’ minutes in the second quarter and started the third. It appears it will be a battle between him and Forbes for the tenth man’s minutes for the time being. Both had their good and bad moments, but White definitely had a stronger showing in the second half after shaking off some early jitters and played a big role in the Spurs pulling away.
- The two Raptors acquisitions had very different debuts in Silver and Black. DeRozan looked uncomfortable in the first half but played better in the second on his way to a 7-point, 2-assist night in 18 minutes. However, Poeltl was solid all game with good screen setting, 6 points and 10 rebounds despite often battling with two-time league-leader Whiteside on the boards.
- Anyone who watched the game would understand how even without putting up big numbers (4 points, 4 assists), Mills easily led the team in plus/minus with +15 in 12 minutes. He’s now the Spurs’ senior leader, and regardless of which unit he played with the offense clearly hummed better with him in the game.
- Outside of the main rotation, there wasn’t much to take away from the third-string/fringe players. Dante Cunningham got the only meaningful minutes outside of garbage time with 3 points, 3 rebounds, and some feisty defense on Kelly Olynyk. Jaron Blossomgame also had a couple of big scores late to stave off that Miami run. Chimezie Metu showed some of his defensive prowess but needs to work on handling the ball better.
Lonnie Walker IV has been battling a sore groin in recent days and did not make his much anticipated debut for the Spurs. He still got some “we want Walker” chants from a crowd that was probably unaware of his condition.
- Just a reminder that this is the preseason: both teams combined for 41 turnovers for the game, and that wasn’t just from the third stringers.
- The new arena announcer will take some getting used to. The way he yelled out a player’s name after a score (especially a three) was . . . different than we’re used to.
For the Heat fan’s perspective, visit Hot Hot Hoops.
The Spurs return to the AT&T Center on Wednesday for the Silver and Black Scrimmage (remember it’s free entry). They will commence with the preseason on Friday at home against the Detroit Pistons.
Source: Pounding The Rock