AT&T CENTER – The San Antonio Spurs improved to 2-0 in the preseason Friday evening with a 117-93 victory over the Detroit Pistons. Before thinking too much about the final score, one must remember that it’s only the preseason and the Pistons were missing two of their high usage players in Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin.
Still though, a few observations were made during the game that could paint a picture for the future during the regular season.
More lineup experimentation
On Sunday in the Spurs’ preseason opener, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich started Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Pau Gasol. The first five players off the bench that day were Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli, Davis Bertans, and Jakob Poeltl. By using these 10 players, Derrick White could only play after either Murray, Forbes, or Mills sat down.
Popovich used a different approach Friday night as he started Murray, Mills, DeRozan, Aldridge, and Poeltl. By doing this, Popovich was able to bring White off the bench along with Forbes, Belinelli, Gay, and Gasol. That quintet went on a 24-9 between the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter versus Detroit.
Throughout the game Popovich experimented with numerous lineups that included Dante Cunningham getting some minutes with the starters and bench players at times. Aldridge played more of the 5 like he did last season, while Gay played more at the 4.
With the Spurs building a lead as large as 32 points, the core players were able to rest for the fourth quarter. After the game, Popovich said he’s in the process of just seeing the players playing with each other on the floor, and he’s not focusing too much right now on specific lineups.
Murray’s improved mid-range jumper
Project Spurs’ own Nathan Kudla recently wrote a piece describing how Murray’s jumper has seen some observable changes from last season to this early preseason. Friday, Murray finished as the Spurs’ leading scorer with 16 points and 11 rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting. Out of those 16 points, 10 points came from the mid-range area where Murray knocked down 5/8 (63%) of his mid-range jumpers from 12-22 feet.
When Murray runs a pick-and-roll with a big and they drop back or go under screens, he’s not hesitating to take the open mid-range look.
“He’s come a long way,” said Popovich of Murray’s improvement with his jump shot. Popovich also credited Murray’s unique rebounding ability.
“It’s a real skill. He’s a very good rebounding guard.”
To highlight his rebounding, on one possession, Murray missed a 7-foot floater and instead of giving up on the possession, it looked almost effortlessly as he just jumped over his defender for his own offensive rebound and then putback basket.
“I want the ball,” said Murray after the game of why he puts such an emphasis on rebounding.
Shot selection through two preseason games
Friday the Spurs put 117 points on the scoreboard after attempting just 14 three pointers. The Spurs made the most of their attempts in the paint, from the mid-range, and the free throw line though. San Antonio made 57% of their shots in the paint and they shot 61% from the mid-range. The team also knocked down 19 of their 23 free throws.
Through two games, roughly 45% of the Spurs’ shots are coming from the paint, 34% are coming from mid-range, and 22% are coming from three.
Lonnie Walker IV played five minutes of the fourth quarter and he had scored six points before getting injured with what looked like an ankle or lower leg injury. An injury status update was not provided after the game.