The San Antonio Spurs improved to 2-0 to begin their 2017-18 regular season as San Antonio won their first road game of the season with an 87-77 victory over the Chicago Bulls Saturday.
Led by the trio of Rudy Gay, Dejounte Murray and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs finally built a cushion against the Bulls in the second half as the Spurs led by as many as 19-points, but Chicago did score 15 points in the final six minutes to bring the score within 10 points for the outcome. Gay, Murray and Aldridge were three standout Spurs in the win over Chicago.
Going against a frontcourt of Robin Lopez and the rookie Laurie Markkanen, Aldridge put together another double-double game for San Antonio. When he had Lopez defending him, Aldridge drew fouls by getting Lopez to guard him in the face-up position or since Lopez likes to defend the rim, Aldridge popped more after setting a pick to get wide open mid-range and 3-point looks. When Aldridge had the younger Markkanen guarding him, he used a variety of ways to score on him either by using his right hook move with strength, his over the shoulder shot in the post, and on several possessions, he got layups after getting position against Markkanen in the low block, and his teammates found him for high-low buckets.
With Aldridge off the floor Saturday, the Spurs were outscored by 15.6 points per 100 possessions. With Aldridge out there, the Spurs outscored the Bulls by 8.6 PP/100. Meaning, San Antonio absolutely needed Aldridge out there to keep and even expand their lead on Saturday evening. With Kawhi Leonard out due to injury, Aldridge has been the focal point of the Spurs’ offense as he’s the team leader in using 33% of the team’s possessions on offense through two games.
While Murray didn’t have his best shooting night, he still impacted the game on both ends of the floor by continuing to chip in on the glass and by setting his teammates up with quality shots on his way to six assists. He once again showed his defensive capability with two steals and when he was on the floor, the Spurs were holding the Bulls to 72.5 PP/100. Murray did all this while only turning the ball over once in the game and using just 19.2% of the team’s possessions through two games, which is a low number for the starting point guard.
When Murray was on the floor, the Spurs outscored the Bulls by 18.6 PP/100, however, you could see what happened when he went to the bench, as San Antonio was outscored by 12.8 PP/100. Two specific shots Murray made that were notable were on pick-and-roll sets. Twice, the defense went under the screen and he took the mid-range jumpers and drilled them. In order for the defense to open the lane for him, he’ll have to continue to show that he can be a threat from the mid-range if they go under screens on him.
Though he played less than 25 minutes, you can still see the impact Gay is providing to the Spurs’ bench and he’s also continuing to be one of the closing players Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich is using in the final five minutes to close out ball games. Through two games when he’s on the floor, the Spurs have been running some of the offense through him as he’s been using 23.4% of the team’s possessions. With Leonard out, Gay has been a positive side kick for Aldridge even though it’s only his second game in a Spurs uniform.
With Gay on the floor, the Spurs went to another level by outscoring the Bulls by 33.0 PP/100. When he was off the floor, San Antonio struggled by being outscored by 8.1 PP/100. Something to watch is how Pau Gasol and Gay are developing chemistry with the high-low scoring method. In the preseason, they tried to connect on a high-low set but it didn’t work. Saturday, Gay had position in the paint against his defender and Gasol threw the perfect high-low pass to him and not only did he make the layup, but he was also fouled on the attempt.
Up Next: The Spurs will now fly back to San Antonio where they’ll have Sunday off before preparing to host the 2-0 Toronto Raptors, who are currently leading the league in Net Rating by outscoring opponents by 27.2 PP/100.
All stats via NBA.com