3 Observations from Spurs’ preseason loss to Rockets

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Photo via KSAT.com

AT&T CENTER – The San Antonio Spurs suffered their first loss of the preseason Sunday when they hosted the Houston Rockets, 108-93. During the second quarter, Spurs starting point guard Dejounte Murray suffered a right knee injury and he’s scheduled to have an MRI Monday.

DeMar DeRozan finished with 22 points for the Spurs, while Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich continued to tinker with different lineup combinations. Since it was the Rockets the Spurs were playing, there was a difference in terms of each team’s shot selection throughout the game.

DeRozan’s 22 and 5

DeRozan was much more aggressive Sunday against the Rockets’ defense from the get-go, as he operated off screen action off the ball, out of the pick-and-roll, in the post, in the open court, and in isolation. In 33 minutes DeRozan finished with 22 points on 16 shot attempts, along with five assists and one turnover.

“Just being more aggressive, more assertive,” is what DeRozan said he wanted to be after the game. “They’ve just been telling me to be aggressive,” DeRozan said of the Spurs’ coaching staff as he continues to add himself into the team’s system as one of their go-to options on offense.

While DeRozan has been known for his variety of offensive weapons, he showed a few of his defensive instincts in tallying two steals and two blocks Sunday. He also showed that when shots aren’t going in for the team, he can be relied upon to get to the foul line, where he knocked down 7 of 8 free throw attempts.

More lineup combinations

In each of the Spurs’ three preseason games, Popovich has continued to change the starting lineup each game and his substitution patterns with players coming off the bench. Sunday, he started Murray at the 1, DeRozan at the 2, Rudy Gay at the 3, LaMarcus Aldridge at the 4, and Jakob Poeltl at the 5. Off the bench the guard rotation changed as Derrick White played the backup 1 and Patty Mills the backup 2.

The Spurs used six different lineups before Bryn Forbes made his first appearance of the game in the second quarter. Aldridge started the first and third quarters along traditional center Poeltl and he even played some possessions with Pau Gasol, but, he also played some small ball 5 like he did Friday against the Detroit Pistons. After the game, Aldridge said playing the Rockets was a good test for the Spurs to get used to playing teams that typically play small.

The Spurs will now await to see how long or if Murray’s injury is severe enough where he’ll miss playing time like Lonnie Walker IV. If the news is not good and Murray has to miss time, more responsibility could fall onto the shoulders of Derrick White, who started in place of Murray to begin the third quarter.

Spurs vs Rockets Shot Selection

There were some clear differences between the Spurs and Rockets’ shot selection Sunday. Houston took 53 three-point attempts to San Antonio’s 21 threes. The Spurs over the last two games have increased their attempts in the paint, where they took 50 attempts while Houston took 30. Lastly, the Spurs saw a decrease in mid-range attempts Sunday, where San Antonio only attempted 18 mid-range shots. The Rockets stayed away from the mid-range with only seven attempts.

Two areas to watch for the Spurs in their final two preseason games are their points that are coming from the paint and the free throw line. Since they are showing through three preseason games they’re going to continue being a low volume outside shooting team, they can still put more points on the scoreboard with more of an emphasis of scoring in the paint and at the free throw line. Last season, the Spurs ranked 14th in scoring a percentage of their points from the free throw line and paint.

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