SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs opened a new era of basketball with a 112-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves (0-1) at the AT&T Center on Wednesday night.
The season opener was the first game the Spurs did not have Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, or Tim Duncan since 1992. This is the second consecutive season the Spurs opened the season against Minnesota and won both season openers.
DeMar DeRozan led the team in his Spurs debut, scoring a game-high 28 points and added four rebounds and four assists.
“He’s a quick study,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said of DeRozan. “He picks things up really quickly and he’s a confident player. The game comes easily to him. He’s in a difficult situation because he is trying to learn a system. It was special for him tonight because it is his first game in a new system with these guys.”
Here is what went good and bad for the Spurs on Wednesday, as well as three standout players: DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Gay.
- The Spurs won their season opener and showed spurts of solid play in the first half, building an 11 point lead at two different times.
- Last season, the Spurs struggled from three-point range. Wednesday night saw San Antonio connect on 11 of their 25 three’s (44 percent).
- Jakob Poeltl got the start at center and was impressive in his debut. Starting with Aldridge will only mean good things for San Antonio moving forward. Poeltl finished with four points, four rebounds, and four assists in seven minutes.
- Davis Bertans showed his improvement from a season ago. He looked much more confident and was not hesitant with his shot. He finished with nine points and went 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
- The Big 3 of Aldridge, Gay, and DeRozan combined for 67 of the Spurs’ 112 points. The offense will not be a problem for San Antonio this season if they can stay healthy.
- San Antonio’s defense had no answer for Jeff Teague, who torched the Spurs for 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
- The Spurs’ defense was the major issue in the first game of the season. They allowed Minnesota to score 108 points and left the paint open in clutch moments where they’ve been sharp in the past. This is to be expected with the loss of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, their top two defenders from a year ago.
Three Standout Players
The former Toronto Raptor turned San Antonio Spur was very vocal about delivering on the court this season from the offseason trade that sent Kawhi Leonard to Canada. If his season-opening game is anything to by, Spurs fans are in for a treat.
DeRozan finished a game-high 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting and took over down the stretch when Aldridge was doubled and sometimes triple teamed by Minnesota. DeRozan drove the ball to the paint and hit six straight points, including the bank shot to put San Antonio up six.
“When your teammates throw you the ball and tell you to close out the game it makes it easier,” DeRozan said. “Patty [Mills] told me a few times to go and close the game. When you hear that, it feels good.”
DeRozan showed displays of his aggressiveness that the Spurs desperately missed last season, going 7-for-11 from the free throw line. It is safe to say, the Spurs are in good hands with DeMar.
After his best season as a Spur, LaMarcus Aldridge picked up right where he left off on Wednesday. And it has fans optimistic following an offseason of change and a preseason of injuries.
Aldridge finished with 21 points and 19 rebounds, becoming the first player in Spurs history to have 21-plus points and 19-plus rebounds in a season opener.
“I thought LA was a horse,” Popovich said. “He couldn’t make a shot but he was a horse on the boards and on defense. He still moved the ball around when they double-teamed him and did a great job in that regard.”
He struggled shooting the ball, going just 7-for-23 (30 percent) from the floor. He did his work on the defensive end as he and Poeltl held Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns to eight points and nine rebounds as he fouled out in the fourth quarter.
After being out a large portion of the regular season a year ago, Rudy Gay is back on the court and determined to help his team and make up for what they missed a year ago.
Gay finished with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting and hit his only three of the night. Rudy was instant offense for the Spurs last season, particularly in the playoffs. Pop and the Spurs will hope Gay can stay healthy and be a massive spark for the Spurs’ offense as we begin a new year.
The Spurs are now 1-0 on the season and will return to the court on Saturday night when they hit the road for the first time in the 2018-19 season, facing the Portland Trail Blazers (0-0) at 9 pm at the Moda Center.