SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs opened the 2017-18 regular season with a 107-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the AT&T Center on Wednesday night. The Silver and Black were without the services of Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, but the Spurs’ signature defense down the stretch would propel them to victory.
Here is what went good and bad for the Spurs in their season opener as well as three standout players.
- The Spurs won. It is always good for a team to begin their season with a win. Despite not having two key members of their team, the Spurs rode the hot hand of LaMarcus Aldridge and used a solid defensive effort in the fourth quarter to hold off the Timberwolves for the win.
- Dejounte Murray filled in for the injured Tony Parker and did not miss a beat. He played well to open his sophomore season. More on that in the featured players section.
- Pau Gasol showed Spurs fans exactly why he re-signed with San Antonio for three more seasons. He held his own against the up and coming big man Karl Anthony-Towns in the paint and held the fort down near the rim with Aldridge.
- The Spurs played sloppy during points in the game that is sure to leave Coach Gregg Popovich looking at game film with his team in practice this week. San Antonio saw Minnesota go on an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to pull within one point of the Spurs. San Antonio had several bad passes and turnovers that let Minnesota get back into the ball game. As the season goes on, I am interested to see if those mistakes begin to correct themselves.
Three Standout Players:
LaMarcus Aldridge: The All-Star continued his hot play from the preseason and showed fans exactly why he earned a three-year extension from the team this week. Aldridge finished with a double-double to open his third season in the Alamo City, posting 25 points and 10 rebounds in the win. When Minnesota came with the double teams, he found the open man. Early in the first quarter he was doubled, but found Pau Gasol at the top of the key for an open three pointer. Later in the second half, the double came again and this time Aldridge found Danny Green for an open corner three ball. Whatever conversation he had with Popovich seems to have worked and will be key when Leonard returns from injury.
Dejounte Murray: The second year point guard made the start with Patty Mills coming off the bench and he did not disappoint. Murray finished with 16 points on 87 percent shooting and five rebounds. Despite just being in his second season in the NBA, Murray’s play showed exactly why he is the future point guard for the Silver and Black. He had a few explosive dunks and did not show fear in attacking the paint. He directed the floor well and often got Aldridge into his spots. Murray’s biggest area of notice had to be his defense. He had two steals as he showed flashes of Kawhi Leonard as he read the play from the Minnesota offense and quickly took the ball to the hole. Murray reassured Spurs fans that the team is in good hands while Tony Parker recovers from offseason surgery to make his return to the court some time in the next few months.
Joffrey Lauvergne: Despite Lauvergne having a poor shooting night with just four points on 2-of-6 shooting, he showed it is the little things he does that matters the most. As soon as he entered the game, he made a huge impact. Lauvergne has the passing ability of former Spur Boris Diaw and is basically a younger and taller version of David Lee. As Aldridge took a breather, Joffrey filled his spot in the paint with Gasol and it worked well. He helped Gasol contain KAT in the paint and moved well, despite some of his shots finishing short. His lone assist came off a nice feed to Kyle Anderson in the paint. However, the biggest asset to having Lauvergne on the Spurs is his aggressiveness. He did not let his poor shooting night hamper him as he quickly and effectively made solid use of his time near the basket, playing “bully ball” with the Minnesota big men. If Lauvergne can keep up this level of play, the Spurs depth will only get deeper.
Special mention: Rudy Gay finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 23 minutes.
Up next: The Spurs are now 1-0 on the season and will return to the court on Saturday when they travel to Chicago to face the Chicago Bulls at 7 p.m. from the United Center.