Thursday evening the San Antonio Spurs fell to 14-19 this season following a loss at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Here were four mini headlines following that game.
When Lonnie Gets Over 20 Minutes
This season, there’s been a competition for who will win out the backup small forward role behind DeMar DeRozan between veteran Marco Belinelli and second year wing Lonnie Walker IV. Walker IV has played in 25 of the team’s 33 games this season, where he’s averaging 10.7 minutes per game when he does play.
Thursday against the Thunder, Walker IV logged 21 minutes, where he finished with 16 points (3rd most on the team), 7 rebounds, one assist, and no turnovers. When it came to Walker IV’s shooting efficiency, he made shots from all three areas – the paint, mid-range, and three with an overall shooting accuracy of 60%.
It doesn’t happen often – in fact, just four times this season, but here are the scoring numbers Walker IV is putting up when he does get to play 20 or more minutes in a game: 25.3 minutes, 25/41 FG (60.9%), 0.8 turnovers, and 17.5 points.
Before getting over 20 minutes in Thursday’s game, you have to go all the way back to December 14, when the Spurs played the Suns to find the last time Walker IV got over 20 minutes. Since he’s a young up and coming player in competition for a role and minutes with a veteran, Walker IV’s playing time is dependent on how he plays while out on the floor according to Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich’s evaluation method. Thursday, Popovich was complimentary of Walker IV’s performance against the Thunder, so as Walker IV logged all those minutes, Belinelli received a DNP. Thursday also marked the third game in a row where Walker IV was the backup off the bench to DeRozan. While this might turn into a regular role for Walker IV, there’s been instances this season where Walker IV looks like he’s earned the role, but then, Popovich goes back to Belinelli in different games or different quarters.
Derrick White’s Pull-Up 3s
After Thursday’s game against the Thunder, Derrick White’s three-point accuracy is at an efficient 40%, where White has now made 30 of his 75 three points attempts.
One situation White often faces is seeing defenses go under on pick-and-rolls when White has the ball above the three-point arc. When that happens, White has shown he’s confident to take those pull-up 3s and he’s making them also efficiently, with 38% accuracy. Almost 39% of White’s three point attempts this season have been off pull-up 3s.
Dejounte Murray on Wide Open 3s
In their loss to the Thunder Thursday, Dejounte Murray attempted and made one three pointer in the game. While his overall average is still below an efficient mark at 31%, Murray did bring his wide open three-point accuracy up to a level that’s getting at least a point per shot on those attempts.
Murray has now made 10 of his 30 three pointers when they’re defined as wide open (defender is 6+ feet away). Now that he’s reached his mark of 33%, which is giving him a point per shot on those attempts, we’ll see if he can continue to build on it and make himself a threat on wide open 3s, or if that accuracy will go back down toward where his overall 3-point accuracy is at.
Defensive Matchups Against SGA
One player who made it a tough night for the Spurs’ defense was Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished the game with 25 points (10/18 shooting), 5 assists, and just 1 turnover. In the second half, SGA scored 21 of his 25 points.
During his 15-point third quarter, SGA’s primary defender for most of the quarter was Bryn Forbes. Forbes had a tough time keeping SGA out of the lane either 1-on-1 or off pick-and-rolls. Even in the fourth quarter, there was a timeframe when Popovich played White and Murray together, which rarely happens, but after just two minutes together, Murray was pulled for Rudy Gay so the Spurs could go back to a traditional frontcourt of Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge. Doing this meant the Spurs closed the game with one strong defender (White) and two defenders who have trouble containing dribble penetration in Forbes and DeRozan.
While Chris Paul was also a problem for the Spurs’ defense in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points in the quarter, DeRozan had to guard SGA during that segment late in the game. When looking at the matchup data, Forbes was SGA’s primary defender, guarding SGA for 17 partial possessions. Second was DeRozan, who had to defend SGA for 6.2 partial possessions.
It still seems the coaching staff isn’t ready to give Murray and White more minutes together, nor play the two of them alongside Walker IV for a long spell. Though, as the numbers show, those are three of their best perimeter defenders.
|Primary Matchup FG%
|Lonnie Walker IV