San Antonio vs. Utah, Final Score: Upstart Spurs beat the Jazz in pre-season debut, 111-85

The Spurs blew Utah in their preseason opener, 111-85, riding on their versatile defense and a scorching second-half scoring display to rally past the top tier of the Western Conference from a year ago.

Dejounte Murray led Silver and Black with 17 points, three rebounds and three assists, matched only by Josh Primo, who scored 17 points from the bench. Jared Butler led the Jazz by 16 points.

Observations

  • Unsurprisingly, San Antonio and Utah were rusty in the first frame of their preseason opener, going down a combined 14-of-51. Both teams played a relatively stingy defense, although most of their misses came in wide open cans. While there were moments of solid, basic basketball, both teams could use a little more time on the court to build traction with their teammates.
  • Lonnie Walker and Derrick White seem to be the most logical beneficiaries of DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills leaving San Antonio this off-season. However, their influx of touches didn’t exactly lead to much productivity on Monday night. That said, you can’t read deep into a preseason outing, let alone the first preseason outing of the year. Both players have left their mark on the defense, and when their attack comes, the Spurs should perform even better against the Pistons.
  • It was difficult to enter the offensive end for Devin Vassell, who missed all five of his shots in the first half and traveled for good measure. Despite his struggle to shoot the ball, Vassell had no trouble making life difficult for opponents who were ballhandlers. The 2020 lottery pick looked spry as he got off the couch, mirrored his orders, and cut them off before they could get to their spot. Don’t be surprised if the slender swingman plays a major role in San Antonio improving their mediocre defensive numbers from a year ago.
  • Like most players who took the hardwood tonight, Keldon Johnson started off slow. Fortunately, the big forward picked up the pace and gained momentum throughout the second quarter. The third-year Spur shot through Royce O’Neale for his first points of the evening, pulled a foul and ended the game with a float from the glass. And it looks like Johnson picked up a few tricks from DeMar DeRozan and shows off a newfound fadeaway jumper eerily reminiscent of his former All-Star teammate.
  • Dejounte Murray was also a little slow coming out of the gates, but that didn’t stop the sixth-year general from slowing down. He opened the third quarter with an acrobatic layup over Udoka Azubuike, continued the fun with one of his signature steal-and-slams, kept things going from his sweet spot in the midrange and capped his hot streak with a tough floater to finish via contact . San Antonio’s longest-serving player looked good to take on the de facto top scorer role, finishing his outing with a game-high 17 points.
  • Jakob Poeltl and Drew Eubanks picked up where they left off a season ago, providing tough edge protection while cleaning the glass at both ends. Poeltl scored San Antonio’s first two baskets of the evening and Eubanks scored a catch-and-shoot three-pointer, part of his game he’s been working on all summer. The big men know their role and seem willing to defend their place in the rotation.
  • Jock Landale made his unofficial debut with the Spurs, coming into the game for the first time almost halfway through the second quarter. The Australian center showed a bit of chemistry with Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, who confidently stepped into a pick-and-pop triple and drove home a perfectly placed pocket pass. He also showed some offensive versatility, delivering a superb bounce pass to a slashing Doug McDermott for an and-an opportunity that netted San Antonio in double digits.
  • Josh Primo didn’t get into action until the third quarter, but he wasn’t shy when he stepped on the hardwood. The 18-year-old rookie looked more like a seasoned veteran with the amount of poise he showed off the pines. The slippery combo guard got hot quickly, racking up eight points in his first six minutes. He went off the field a perfect 3-for-3, exuding confidence as he slipped seamlessly into San Antonio’s second unit. Primo not only exceeded expectations in his Silver and Black debut, but he also led the team in scoring, noting a game-high 17 points on an almost flawless 7-for-8 line of the field.
  • Bryn Forbes was who we remembered him to be. The undersized three-point specialist knocked down triples that ran off the screens, hit a couple of mid-range jumpers and kept the ball moving. His defense didn’t look any better than when we last saw him don Silver and Black, but his flaws were less pronounced alongside Dejounte and Derrick than Patty and Marco. And his second stint at San Antonio should go more smoothly than his first round, as long as head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t trot him out 25 minutes a game.
  • Keita Bates-Diop, Joe Wieskamp and Luka Samanic eventually made their way onto the field, although they were mostly an afterthought in their limited run. Wieskamp and Bates-Diop fighting over scraps shouldn’t come as a shock, but time is running out for Samanic to get a part in San Antonio. While the former 19th overall pick hasn’t seen consistent minutes since Spurs selected him in 2019, his flashes of ball dexterity and perimeter defense remain intriguing. Maybe he just needs a chance to prove himself, and hopefully that will come with the youth movement gaining a foothold this season.
  • Doug McDermott delivered the off-the-ball distance and movement NBA fans have come to expect. The veteran marksman failed to hit three-pointers, but he kept defenders turned around as he slashed the back door and moved around the perimeter. San Antonio’s esteemed free agency signing may not be an addition of All-Star caliber, but his skills should help their youngsters achieve higher usage rates across the board.
  • There have been rumors that Al-Farouq Aminu and Thaddeus Young may not make it to the San Antonio season opener, and neither veteran qualified for the Spurs on Monday. Young has seen his name in trade rumors surrounding the Phoenix Suns, who could be an optimal trading partner if they are willing to part with a first-rounder.
  • When head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters that Zach Collins is on track to return sometime after Christmas, it looked like San Antonio would enter the preseason with a virtually pristine bill of health. Unfortunately, Tre Jones ended up in the latest injury report with an ankle sprain, interrupting a potential breakout campaign. The sophomore point guard was spectacular for the Spurs during the Summer League and attracted attention with his improved play. There’s no word on the seriousness of his sprain, so the Silver and Black believers will have to wait with bated breath until he’s ready to go again.

For the perspective of the jazz fans, visit SLC Dunk.

The San Antonio traces return on Wednesday for some more preseason action as they hit the road for a date with Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons.

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