We’ve all heard what has been said about moral victories in the past, but what can be taken away from the San Antonio Spurs’ 121-111 loss to the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday?
“Nobody likes to lose. That includes me, but I couldn’t be more proud of this team. I think it’s a tough start to a season with this schedule. This particular back-to-back, not just because of the teams, but the travel involved,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “But it is early in the season so that’s not an excuse, but it makes it a little bit more difficult for a young group. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played toe-to-toe.”
Here are a few takeaways from Saturday’s loss.
McDermott transitioning quickly
One thing I’ve heard from several new San Antonio Spurs players over the years is that it takes time to get comfortable within the Spurs’ system and learn the offensive and defensive schemes. Doug McDermott appears to be bucking that trend and looks like he’s been with the Spurs for years as he’s found his way in the flow of the offense and seems to be transitioning rather seamlessly.
On Saturday night, he finished with a team-leading 25 points to go along with four rebounds and two assists. He shot at a highly efficient 9-of-13 from the field and knocked down bombs from long range as he converted 7-of-11 three-point attempts.
“He’s one of the best shooters in the league, tough to guard, active, moves a lot, moves well without the ball,” guard Derrick White said. “We just got to find him any chance he gets open. He was big tonight.”
McDermott seems to be finding comfort in his shot from the top of the key. He will curl off a high screen and usually catch his opponent under the screen, which has given him enough time to lift up and knock down his jumper. He’s also a capable driver and finisher especially if his defender tries to prevent the perimeter jumper.
Lonnie Walker IV’s versatility
The San Antonio Spurs and Lonnie Walker IV could not come to terms on a rookie-scale extension so Walker seems to be gambling on himself this season, and thus far, the gamble is paying off.
It is still very early and we have a small sample size, but Walker has played well in the first three games of the season. On Saturday night in San Antonio, he scored 17 points and showed off his versatility by being a primary ball-handler or by dribbling into the lane and finishing on some wild shots.
Last season, Walker was one of the Spurs’ best three-point shooters, so this all fits nicely in his tool bag that he can offer the Spurs on a nightly basis. That athleticism and bit of unpredictability also offer an added dimension to the offense.
He also scored 17 points in the season opener and has averages of 13 points, four rebounds, and two assists per game.
Defense remains a priority
This young team has seemingly placed a premium on defense, and that seems to continue to be a major focus. The defense was strong against the Magic, and they were within striking distance against the Nuggets and Bucks.
Against the Bucks, the Spurs forced 20 turnovers and made the defending champions work hard for their scoring opportunities.
“I don’t know if we’re going to force that many turnovers every game, but you know if you’re playing good defense that’s part of it,” Popovich said. “You’re probably gonna end up on the right side of that.”
The Spurs also forced the Magic into 16 turnovers on Monday night, and that level of defense will be something they’ll hope to continue, especially with games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and their second matchup with the Bucks coming up this week.