Wednesday, the San Antonio Spurs fell to 2-2 in the preseason after a 130-127 loss in Atlanta to the Hawks. After the Spurs led for the majority of the first half, the Hawks came charging in the third quarter with a 15-0 run to begin the quarter. San Antonio would claw back from a 13-point deficit to get the lead back in the fourth quarter, but, in the final seconds of the game, rookie Trae Young showed why he’s going to be a special player with his shooting ability, as he made a deep three to put the Hawks ahead by three with 2.2 seconds left in the game.
Here were a few takeaways from the Spurs’ preseason loss to the Hawks.
White’s first start at point guard
With the Spurs learning earlier this week Dejounte Murray might possibly miss the entire season due to a knee injury, the responsibility in how far the team can go could possibly fall on second year guard Derrick White’s shoulders.
White started in place of Murray and he finished with a balanced game of 15 points (6/11 FG), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and 1 turnover in 29 minutes. White displayed his offensive skill set in setting teammates up for baskets, while he was also able to score near the rim with layups and floaters, as well as from beyond the arc, where he made a spot-up three. In the pick and roll, it’s going to take White some time to get more comfortable to get the ball to the starters where they thrive, but, one positive stat was that he only had one turnover despite the increase in minutes and responsibility.
White’s play on the defensive end will be the key area to watch this season. Murray was a second team All-NBA defender for his ability to disrupt passing lanes and in his ability to get defensive stops by securing multiple rebounds per game. Early in the first quarter, White had some trouble on defense in the pick and roll, but part of that looked like miscommunication with the second defender. Some of those coverage issues could get better with more playing time with his teammates.
Before going too far into how the Spurs’ defense performed Wednesday, you have to keep in mind that it’s still the preseason and the Spurs were without LaMarcus Aldridge, who was resting. But, the Hawks really carved through the Spurs’ defense mainly using the pick and roll and out in the open court. The Hawks were able to score 30 or more points in each quarter of the game and before the third quarter even ended, they had already put 100 points on the scoreboard.
The Spurs had trouble containing the pick and roll initiated by Taurean Prince. Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan had difficulty going around the screens and when Pau Gasol dropped back, Prince usually got an open look at a mid-range jumper or a close attempt in the paint. When the season starts next week, Aldridge will be back on the floor, which should help the Spurs’ defense. But, it’ll be a true test for the Spurs to maintain being a top 10 defense after they lost Danny Green and Kyle Anderson in the offseason, and now with the Murray injury.
Who will create for the second unit?
Before Murray went down with the injury, White was the Spurs’ primary ballhandler who could get into the lane and create for others off the pick and roll. Now with White starting, it’ll be interesting to see who will create for the second unit of Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli, Davis Bertans, and Jakob Poeltl. Those five players move the ball well with their passing and cutting off the bench, but, they don’t have a player who can clearly get near the rim when a defense has stopped their initial actions. Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich could try to stagger one of the playmaking starters in White, DeRozan, Gay, or Aldridge to fill this role for the bench unit, or, down the line, when he eventually gets healthy, that role could be given to Lonnie Walker IV.
The Spurs’ final preseason game will take place Friday in Orlando against the Magic.