After the last-second defeat to the Thunder, Spurs proved that they can still win close games. Thanks to a spectacular performance by DMR DeRozen in the rear, San Antonio beat the Pelicans 117-114, in another matchup, which came down the wire.
It doesn’t look like even the most severely shortened spurs will force a close end at the start of the game. Neither team was making a good defense to start the night, but San Antonio just had no answer for Brandon Ingram. The young All-Star Wing reduced their lead by 15 points to eight in the first frame. San Antonio increased the defensive intensity on the perimeter while controlling Sion Williamson. Once the other units checked, Silver and Blake got the edge they needed to get back to him, much to the credit of Lamarcus Aldridge’s aggressive play off the bench.
Eldridge and Derozen lead the offense and the inspired Digent Murray wreaks havoc on both ends, with Spurs showing more peace in the second quarter. Luck was also in their favor, to be fair, as they warmed up from the outside at the right time while Pelic was struggling with a long ball. If the new Relians were able to make money on the open look, accepting San Antonio Zion by doubling and packing the paint on drives, half the score would have been different. Unfortunately for visitors, Spurs did a good job of annoying some of their shooters with strong closeouts, resulting in a 1-for-7 quarter ahead of the arc for the Pelicans. After a strong finish by San Antonio, the lead went to six wickets.
Pelic had a chance to regain control of him in the third quarter after some strong plays from Williamson, but he made mistakes that prevented him from capitalizing on a normal half-time lull by the Spurs. After the chaotic first two minutes, San Antonio returned to limit Zion’s impact and control the pace. Their trail in the offense played the role of the X-factor that Lonnie Wacker IV played in the second quarter, but the work of DeRozen, who did a good job of advancing the attack, was a really big reason for their success. Both teams were cold from the outside and it was difficult to determine each of the issues, but the Spurs came to the top on the basis of being a semi-court creator and extended their nine lead to the final period.
DeRozen’s dependence that helped him in the early stages came back to haunt the Spurs in the fourth quarter. With the ISO-heavy attack in the second and third frames, the offense dried up. The role players couldn’t score their shots and nothing was easier until DeRozan brought himself to the line. Luckily for the Spurs, the Pelicans just couldn’t make that final push. Zion had some horrible moments and the whole team deserves credit for cutting the deficit three times in the last few minutes. But every time they came close, they couldn’t close the gap either by missing a shot or by keeping a break in defense.
- DeMar DeRozan returned with revenge, logging 32 points and 11 assists. It was a tremendous performance that carried the Spurs into the toughest stretch of the game. DeRozen will not be in Atlanta, but everyone should know by now that he is an all-star level player.
- Lamarcus Eldridge came out of the bench once again and did a good job of providing the offense. He was more aggressive after missing a couple jumpers and was shooting 10 free throws. As a bench scorer who can punish other units, Aldridge can be very productive going forward.
- Anyone in the league called for so many soft offensive falls while screening Jacob Powell? It’s weird. Despite the mishap, Jack was still able to pull down 11 boards and block three shots in the win, so I’m sure he’s not bothered by that, but I won’t wait until the officers are honored.
- DeJount Murray filled the state sheet, flirting with another triple-double, while also doing a good job of including Ingram after his initial barrage. Murray did most of his damage in the first half, but found a way to contribute even when the ball was not in his hands after the DeRozen takeover. It’s great to see how trustworthy he is becoming.
- Tray Layles and Lonnie Wacker IV were once again asked to fill in as starters. As mentioned, both had moments, but they only helped in their area of expertise. Lyle kept the ball moving forward by pulling down seven rebounds while Lonnie poured in 17 points. Both of them will probably get big minutes until everyone comes back, so despite the strict defensive assignments, it was good to see them play well.
- Patti Mills was hot in the first half but cold in the second. He’s still played nicely on both ends, so it’s hard to complain.
- Luka Samainik came off the bench this time, but one of them is a very encouraging zero-point, three rebound game that I remember. He just seemed to be of origin, and for the most part, played a good defense. He also had a monster putbuck dunk around which unfortunately got out. We are seeing progress from Luke.
- The Spurs’ entire game plan was centered around stopping Joon Williamson and he still has 23 points. Even if the defense pushes him on a bad shot, Zion is so strong and has another big jump that he can snatch his offensive board and get a putback. In the same way he caught at least four of his offensive rebounds against the Spurs. Just a player’s beast.
Next game: Vs. Net on Monday
Net will visit the next AT&T center. Spurs’ perimeter defenders will face another tough challenge. If they can stop James Harden, Silver and Black could win for the second time in a row.