Watching (or not) the Raptors get their rings, among all the hype around Kawhi — the man who took the Raptors where DeMar did not — beat Lakers in Los Angeles, had to have some part in the play of DeMar DeRozan in the Knicks game.
If there is something else unifying about all these NBA players, it is that they are more competitive than the average citizen. It had to sting a little — even just the tiniest bit — to see a guy do all that
DeRozan did not play well against the Knicks, turning the ball over often and missing free throws. Tonight against the Wizards, he displayed a level of aggression that is worthy of his salary. We counted three dunks, two with the right and one with the left. One of them was on the other side of the rim. He looked like he was looking for his shot, like he is an all-star known for getting buckets when and where he wants them.
He closed out the game by attacking the middle of the floor and looking for his shot. He finished things off by getting a tough two in traffic. That is the kind of thing we used to see Kawhi, Ginobili, and Parker do when it mattered.
Another spurned player balled out of his mind in this one: Davis Bertans. He looked every bit the guy we did not want to see go, firing sumptuous three-point shots and mixing in a little defense here and there. He closed down DeMar on one of the final possessions, and helped his team by blocking Forbes.
The Spurs won this thing and like the opener, there is much to dislike. The Knicks and Wizards are not going to win the title and neither is a guarantee for the playoffs no matter how weak the East is.
An encouraging sign is the level of defensive quality when closing out both games. Sure, there were some glaring errors in positioning that allowed the Wiz to take the lead and even hang around early. Watching Dejounte eat up space and turn steals into dunks is invigorating, however. Derrick White and Murray shut down Bradley Beal on the final possession. That is Spurs basketball.
Oh, and in eight quarters of play, the Spurs have scored 30+ in six of them.
The squad has one more on this little home stand before heading west where they will be tested against Kawhi and the Clippers. Dame Time is coming Monday, and the level of competition will rise.
The West is wide open and these wins count just as much as any others, and are arguably more important given thee weakness of the teams concerned. The Spurs did lose to the Knicks last season after all, and that meant a lower seed in the playoffs.
LaMarcus had a quiet 27 to lead the team again. He was his default good self and even drained a couple of threes. He needs to do that Tim Duncan thing and be consistently good for the Spurs to challenge.
I am bullish on the Spurs’ chances — the West is not so great that no one is without flaws. Where the Spurs lack top flight talent, they have depth and experience. That may not go so far in the playoffs, where you need special talent to show up, but it is better than nothing.