Just as fast as LeBron James’ former team jumped on the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals, his new team raised the bar.
In game number two of the Las Vegas Summer League, the San Antonio Spurs were defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers 82-70 after storming out to a 13-0 lead before extending it further to 22-4. Cleveland’s Will Cherry and San Antonio’s Deshaun Thomas led all scorers with 21 points a piece.
The Cavaliers number one overall pick from 2013, Anthony Bennett, led the charge early. Bennett’s confidence in his jumpers quickly set the tone for him and his teammates. After knocking down two big ones quickly, number one overall pick from this season, Andrew Wiggins, joined the party with seven quick points of his own. Center Jack Cooley, two years removed from Notre Dame, also contributed six of his fifteen total points in that spurt to start the contest.
After finally cracking the double digit barrier on Darius Morris’ runner at the first quarter buzzer, the tide began to turn for the Spurs. JaMychal Green, in his second Spurs Summer League appearance, pushed the pace with aggressiveness on defense (two blocks on jump shots) that led to ten points before the half and two dunks.
Down 18 at the half, three quick long balls (two from Daye and one from Denmon) and a couple other baskets gave the Spurs new life in the ball game. Deshaun Thomas kept the Spurs within shouting distance after dropping 16 of his 21 points in the second half. However, Will Cherry killed the Spurs’ last efforts with fourteen straight points for Cleveland.
Analyzing performances in summer league doesn’t always validate regular season results. However, Austin Daye’s shooting performances so far this summer definitely raise an eyebrow. Spurs coach Ime Udoka stated entering summer play that the Spurs wanted to see how Daye played against fours, mainly on the defensive end.
“Really want to see him guard 4-men, that’s something that he’s going to have to be able to do and show that he can do that.”
Austin Daye was positioned to replace Matt Bonner as the stretch four in the Spurs system. Now that Bonner is returning to the Spurs for another season, Daye’s role returns back to the end of the bench, most likely in a suit, in large part to his lack of results shooting-wise. Daye went 3-11 overall, and 2-6 from downtown against Cleveland. Combine that with a 5-18, 1-8 performance from Friday, Daye is only shooting 21% from three, a number that will not cut it in the Summer League, let alone with the big boys. On top of his shooting woes, Anthony Bennett continually bested Daye on the boards (14 to 5).
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Deshaun Thomas is still trying to prove himself as a legitimate NBA player. Thomas finished the night with a quiet 21 points. Coming off the bench, Thomas probably was the best player on the court for the Spurs today, although the argument could be made for JaMychal Green. Just like he did in college, Thomas scored from all over the floor, and attacked the basketball on the offensive boards. All five of his rebounds were offensive, which is slightly disheartening. Other than scoring and rebounding, Thomas did not record another stat. Thomas has been quoted as saying the Spurs asked him to work on his rebounding and perimeter defense. The improvement on the boards is slow, but his defense and scoring could land him in the NBA sooner than later.
Paul Garcia and Michael De Leon will have in-depth looks at some other big names on the roster, and Project Spurs will be back with full coverage tomorrow when the Spurs face-off against the New Orleans Pelicans at 5:30 CST.