Preseason: 6 Standouts from Spurs’ win over Nuggets

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AT&T CENTER – The San Antonio Spurs improved to 2-1 in the preseason with another double-digit win Sunday afternoon, as the Spurs defeated the Denver Nuggets 122-100. The Spurs were without injured players Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson, but Pau Gasol and Patty Mills also got Sunday off for rest. The Nuggets were only without Jamal Murray (rest).

The Spurs opened open an early double-digit lead heading into halftime, however, in the middle of the third quarter, Denver clawed all the way back to tie the game. In the fourth, San Antonio once again put together a run to gain some separation from Denver. Here were six standout players for the Spurs in their preseason win over the Nuggets.

LaMarcus Aldridge: 21 points (9-16 shooting), 8 rebounds, 6 assists in 32 minutes

With Leonard out, the Spurs once again made Aldridge their go-to option on the offensive end, as they utilized his ability in the low post, at the elbow, and in pick-and-pop action. When Aldridge went into the post, he either attacked the defender with jump hooks and spin moves if it was in isolation. However, on multiple occasions the Nuggets sent double teams his way and Aldridge passed the ball out to the open shooter for 3-points time after time. One new wrinkle the Spurs added for Aldridge was an early pin-down screen to get him isolated one on one at the left elbow. From there, Aldridge had the options of attacking his defender off the dribble with space or going straight into post-up action. The team spaced the floor well for him which allowed him to go to work or kick out when doubles were sent his way.

Dejounte Murray: 8 points (4-7 shooting), 6 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals in 26 minutes

Murray did what the Spurs need him to do as their interim starting point guard – run a balanced game plan. In the halfcourt, Murray got his teammates in the right spots and Spurs Assistant Coach Becky Hammon commented afterward on how that’s what the coaches want Murray to do, run the team and get them into their sets when things get a little too frenetic in the open court. While Murray did just that in half court, in the open court, he was more aggressive in either attacking the defense with floaters or finding teammates on the ground or in the air for layups and alley-oop attempts.

Though he didn’t tally any blocks, Murray did collect two steals and he showed better anticipation skills of when to gamble for a steal while playing help side defense. After the game, Manu Ginobili commented on how the Spurs could be “poised” for another good defensive squad on the perimeter with a starting unit of Murray, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, in how they all have length and anticipation in collecting steals and making it hard for teams to score on them.

Matt Costello: 5 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks in 18 minutes

With Gasol out and Joffrey Lauvergne starting, Costello got to play consistent minutes and he knew where his role would be as the backup 5. Though he’s not as crafty at scoring or moving the ball like Lauvergne, Costello continues to show he can be physical down in the paint and he has a good knack of knowing where to position himself in grabbing rebounds. He grabbed 12 rebounds against some notable NBA big men in Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee. Costello impacting the glass shows he can be a reliable option as a 2-way contract player who will be called upon from the Austin Spurs through the season for up to 45 days.

Bryn Forbes: 20 points (7-11 shooting) in 17minutes

Since Mills had the day off, Forbes ran the backup point guard role behind Murray. He was the recipient of open three after open three, since the Nuggets point guards continually tried to help on Aldridge post-ups, which allowed Forbes to float behind the 3-point arc and collect the open shots. Forbes did show some of his off the dribble game, as he also nailed a few pull-up mid-range jumpers off the dribble like he was doing during Summer League.

Forbes scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half, and after the game, Coach Hammon said Forbes is one of the players on the roster who has the “green light” to shoot often if he’s open.

Manu Ginobili: 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals in 18 minutes

Ginobili helped keep the ball moving off the bench as he found open teammates in both the half and open court with different types of assists. On one possession Ginobili might be standing with the ball at the 3-point line and then he’d zip it across the court to an open teammate for a 3-pointer. On another possession, Ginobili was running the fast break and threw a crafty two-handed bounce pass to Costello trailing for an open dunk. Ginobili’s game does involve some threading of the needle passes, and he did have some turnovers in the game, but the positives outweighed the negatives.

Brandon Paul: 9 points, 5 rebounds in 17 minutes

While Paul hasn’t had too many reps with his new team, he’s able to impact the game from different areas on the floor. While he can guard multiple positions on defense, on offense he displayed the ability to knock down an open corner three, jump in the air and complete an alley-oop, and go into the trees and crash the offensive glass for a put-back score.

Other Observations

The Spurs’ players aren’t the only ones getting practice through the preseason, as the coaching staff is too. Friday, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich and Assistant Coach Ettore Messina sat in the General Manager’s box while Assistant coaches Ime Udoka and James Borrego each coached the team for a half. Sunday, the same coaching plan was in place as Becky Hammon coached the first half and Will Hardy coached the second half.

Up Next: The Magic

The Spurs’ next preseason game will tip-off Tuesday in the AT&T Center as they host former Spur Jonathon Simmons and the Orlando Magic.

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