Spurs’ Popovich thinks Jokic could be the best passer in basketball

It has been rough sledding for the San Antonio Spurs of late. San Antonio has lost five straight and 10 of their last 12, including Friday’s 121-119 loss to the Nuggets, as Denver swept the two-game set at Ball Arena and extended their winning streak to eight games.

Denver(34-18) defeated the Spurs 106-96 on Wednesday night.

The Spurs trailed by as much as 18 points in the first half on Friday night but made a furious run in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie, but Keldon Johnson came up short on his drive to the basket, and DeMar DeRozan missed a putback at the buzzer.

It appeared that San Antonio could get routed in this contest. The Spurs never led in this game and trailed by 13 points entering the fourth quarter. However, Derrick White did everything in his power to bring the Spurs back, including scoring 14 of his team-high 25 points in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough.

On Friday night, San Antonio saw the greatness of Nikola Jokic on full display. Jokic had a triple-double with 26 points, 14 assists, and 13 rebounds, and in the two-game set against the Spurs, Jokic averaged 25.5 points, 12.0 assists, and 11 rebounds.

After the loss to the Nuggets, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had high praise for the three-time All-Star.

“That’s why they are a helluva team,” Popovich said. “Jokic is maybe the best passer in the league. Certainly, the best big-man passer and better than most wings, so sure, he sets the table for everybody; he’s great.”

Jokic is special and a legitimate MVP candidate. There are not many things he can’t do on a basketball court, and with the addition of Aaron Gordon before the trade deadline, Denver looks like a team that can make a run at an NBA title.

As for the Spurs(24-26), who are 9th in the Western Conference, it does not get any easier as they continue their five-game road trip on Sunday night against the Mavericks.

Watch below as Pop talks Jokic:

Spurs’ Popovich: ‘It’s a mental toughness thing to get through the schedule’

On March 22, the San Antonio Spurs began their season-long nine-game homestand against the Charlotte Hornets. At the time, the Spurs were 22-18 and the seventh-seed in the Western Conference after going 3-2 on a five-game road trip.

Two weeks later, the Spurs(24-23) are 2-6 in the first eight games of this homestand, and San Antonio is now tied with Memphis for the eighth seed in the West. The Spurs will finish off this homestand on Monday night against the struggling Cavaliers(17-32). 

The Spurs, who have lost two straight, have one of the most demanding schedules for the second half of the season along with the Memphis Grizzlies as each team is scheduled to play 40 games over the next 68 days. The Spurs have played nine games over 15 days, followed by a stretch where they’re playing 17 of 22 games on the road, including seven back-to-backs.

The Spurs and Grizzlies are the only two teams without any two-day breaks, have 11 back-to-backs, and will play more games on the road than at home over the next ten weeks.

In their last outing, San Antonio lost to the shorthanded Indiana Pacers in OT 139-133, which was San Antonio’s second straight overtime loss. Indiana was without their leading-scorer Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon.

After the loss to Indiana, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made it clear that the team has to keep working.

“We’ll just keep going,” Popovich said. “It’s a mental toughness thing to get through the schedule, and we just move on.”

Playing at home is usually great for young players, and young players tend to perform better at home, but with nine games and 15 nights, and the limited amount fans, home is not the same. The Spurs should defeat the Cavaliers(lost five straight) on Monday night, but based on the way both teams are playing, who knows what will happen.

Spurs have a chance to make a move in standings during nine-game homestand

Five games in seven nights are never easy, and San Antonio finished their five games in seven nights on Saturday night against the Bucks. San Antonio was without Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills due to rest, and while they fought hard and battled against Milwaukee(27-14), it wasn’t enough as the Spurs fell to the Bucks on the road 120-113.

San Antonio finished off their five-game road trip 3-2, and now they prepare to go home for nine straight, starting on Monday against the Charlotte Hornets. 

Lonnie Walker IV was spectacular against the Bucks. The third-year guard had a career-high 31 points behind career-bests of 13 field goals and five three-pointers, while Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 26 points, 15 assists, and eight rebounds.

Even though the Spurs fell short on Saturday night, their head coach Gregg Popovich was happy with the team’s effort. 

‘This is the fifth game in seven nights, and a couple of important guys didn’t play, but it doesn’t matter,” Popovich said. “They all come to compete, getting better all the time.”

Pop was also happy with Walker’s play.

“He played a great game,” Popovich said. “He made shots; he made good decisions, busted his butt on defense. He did good work.”

Currently, San Antonio is 22-17 and in the seventh spot in the Western Conference as they start a nine-game homestand. No matter if they are home or away, Spurs F Keldon Johnson just wants to win.

“I feel like we’re trying to win every game, whether it’s home or away,” Johnson said. “Every game is needed; every game counts.”

The Spurs have one of the longest homestands of the second half with nine games over 15 days (March 22–April 5), which is followed by a stretch where they’re playing 17 of 22 games on the road with seven back-to-backs.

There are some winnable games during nine-game homestand, including games against Sacramento(2x), Cleveland, Charlotte(no LaMelo Ball), and Chicago. The Spurs have an opportunity to make a run. However, they do have a better record on the road than at home, but San Antonio has let fans in the arena, so maybe that will help the team.

It should be interesting to see how they will play during this homestand, but young players usually perform well at home, which could bode well for this team.

Spurs’ Popovich on Simmons: ‘Who gives a d*mn if he can’t shoot?’

Before the 76ers blew out the Spurs, 134-99 on Sunday night in Philadelphia, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gave his thoughts on 76ers All-Star guard Ben Simmons. 

The three-time All-Star is having another stellar season. Simmons is averaging 16.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game and is one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year. However, as good as Simmons has played this season, he still does not take many shots from the perimeter. In four seasons, Simmons is only 4-31 from three-point range.

Can Simmons be an elite player without shooting jump shots? According to Popovich, he can.

“It would enhance his game, obviously, that can’t be argued with,” Popovich said. “But his skills and all of his physical skills, basketball skills, the way he understands the game, as unselfish as he is, he’s elite already. Who gives a damn if he can’t shoot?”

Without Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris had 23 points, and Seth Curry poured in 21 points, and of course, Simmons had another solid all-around game with 14 points, nine assists, and four rebounds. San Antonio(19-16) was outscored 46-21 in the third quarter and trailed by 33 points entering the fourth quarter. Philadelphia(27-12) led by as much as 42 points in the game.

San Antonio will quickly have to forget about this loss as they travel to Detroit to battle the Pistons on Monday night.

Watch as Popovich talks Simmons:

Spurs bounce back against the Knicks

The San Antonio Spurs bounced back on Tuesday night against New York’s other team, the Knicks. Behind a strong third quarter, where the Spurs outscored New York by 15 points, San Antonio routed the Knicks 119-93 at AT&T Center. The 26-point victory was the largest margin of victory for San Antonio this season. 

The Spurs were playing a back-to-back after falling to the Nets on Monday night in OT. Against the Knicks, who are number one in points allowed, San Antonio scored 36 points in the third quarter. Patty Mills(3-5 from three-point range) had nine points in the quarter, and Trey Lyles(2-2 from three-point range) had eight of his team and season-high 18 points, and in the end, San Antonio got back to their winning ways. The Spurs finished the game with 18 made threes. 

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was happy with the team’s effort.

“I think it was an impressive win on a back-to-back,” Popovich said. “Tough loss last night, and they just keep on trucking. An impressive win on a back-to-back came out and played a very physical team. Actually, the number one defensive team in the league right now. They should be pleased with their effort for now. “

Popovich was also happy with the play of DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray. DeRozan had a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, and he became the fifth player in Spurs history to record 11-plus assists in three straight games, while Murray had 17 points and six assists.

“Once again, Dejounte and DeMar, attacking, finding people,” Popovich said. “Between them, 17 assists and one turnover.”

The Spurs battle the Thunder at home on Thursday night, which is very winnable, and the final game before the All-Star break and the team’s four-game homestand. San Antonio is looking to avenge their loss to OKC, who beat the Spurs at the buzzer back in late February.

Gregg Popovich on Spurs: ‘They never gave in’

The San Antonio Spurs(17-13) battled hard against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night and got an amazing buzzer-beater from Dejounte Murray(19 points) to send the game into overtime. However, they were outscored by 11 points in the extra period and would fall to the Nets(23-13) in OT 124-113 at AT&T Center.

After a James Harden three,  who had a triple-double with 30 points, 15 assists, and 14 rebounds, the Spurs trailed 102–90 with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs would go on an 18-6 run to finish the fourth, including Murray’s buzzer-beater. After the game, Popovich discussed Murray’s big-time shot.

“He knew he had to get it to the rim,” Popovich said. “He made a good choice getting rid of that darn thing, but he’s been playing great all year long and just getting smarter and smarter; feeling more and more confident at the position, so it’s all good.”

Despite the loss, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was happy with his team’s fight against Brooklyn.

‘I thought they were great,” Popovich said after the game about his team. “They really worked hard. They dug down deep all year. They never gave in, and tonight was another good example.”

Spurs G Lonnie Walker IV, who scored 19 points against the Nets, agreed with Popovich’s assessment.

“We laid it all out there,” he said. “Our effort defensively really picked up our effort offensively on how we’re scoring and running on transition and everything. So, I’m really happy on how we played as a team. We did it the right way. Unfortunately, we didn’t come up with the win.”

The Spurs were shorthanded on Monday as they were without Keldon Johnson, Rudy Gay, and Derrick White due to health and safety protocols, making their performance against the high-powered Nets even more impressive. Now, they have to set their sights on New York’s other team, the Knicks, as they come into San Antonio to battle the Spurs on Tuesday night.

Notes:

Kyrie Irving added 27 points for the Nets, while DeMar DeRozan had a team-high 22 points for San Antonio.

Spurs announced before their game against Brooklyn that they would be letting fans in the AT&T Center starting on March 12 against the Magic. According to the press release, the Spurs will allow 3200 fans in the building.

Pop on DeRozan’s performance against Pelicans: ‘He was special’

San Antonio Spurs star DeMar DeRozan picked up where he left off on Saturday night against New Orleans(14-19). DeRozan, who was away from the team due to the death of his father, scored 32 points and dished out 11 assists as the Spurs(17-12) defeated the Pelicans 117-114 at AT&T Center in the second game of the Spurs’ four-game homestand. 

DeRozan scored 11 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, including 7/7 from the free throw line. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was impressed by DeRozan’s performance.

“He was spectacular,” Popovich said after the game. “To be gone that long and not show any rust, and to be able to have the wind to play as much as he did and as hard as he did. A lot of guys that are tough to guard on that New Orleans team. He was special.” 

Dejounte Murray, who scored 18 points on Saturday night, was happy to have DeRozan back. 

“He just showed he’s a real professional, a real vet,” Murray said. “This is his happy place. What he was going through, I can only imagine. I talked to him the whole time he was gone, trying to let him know I’m here for him; the team is here for him. I’m not surprised; that’s just DeMar being DeMar, back in his happy place. It’s good to have him back.”

DeRozan is the closer for the Spurs, and having him back the floor helps this team down the stretch in close games. 

The Spurs have now won six of their last eight games, and they have moved into the fifth spot in the Western Conference. On Monday night, the Brooklyn Nets come to town, which will be a tough one for San Antonio when you consider they still will be without Rudy Gay, Devin Vassell, Derrick White, who are all out due to health safety protocol. They could get Keldon Johnson(health and safety protocols) back, who is questionable against Brooklyn.

DeRozan by the numbers:

DeRozan’s 32 points and 11 assists was his 12th career 30-plus point double-double and only fourth with the assist variation. He became the first player in Spurs history to have a game with 30+ points and 10+ assists while shooting at least 75% from the floorwhen he scored 30 points and dished out 10 assists in the Spurs 119-109 win over Denver.

•Only two Spurs have recorded multiple 30-point 10-assist games in the last 30 years: DeMar DeRozan, Tony Parker.

•DeRozan has 124 career games with 30+ points. Only 9 players have more since he was drafted in 2009: LeBronJames,KevinDurant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook,StephenCurry, Damian Lillard, CarmeloAnthony, Anthony Davis and GiannisAntetokounmpo.

•Fourth Spurs in San Antonio franchise history with at least 5 games with 25+ points and 10+ assists. Tony Parker (22), Alvin Robertson (12), Johnny Dawkins (6), DeRozan (5).

Spurs’ Popovich: ‘Considering our positions in this world, we are very, very well off’

The San Antonio Spurs will finally resume their Rodeo Road Trip on Wednesday when they battle the Oklahoma City Thunder. San Antonio was shut down last week after the team did not have enough players due to health and safety protocols. Four San Antonio players tested positive for COVID-19.

San Antonio had three games postponed last week, and Monday night’s game against the Pacers was postponed as well. On Monday, San Antonio practiced for the first time since last week. 

Despite the positive COVID tests and missed games, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich feels fortunate.

“Considering our positions in this world, we are very, very well off,” Popovich said. “Only thank yous for what we have.”

San Antonio will be without the following players when they take the floor against OKC on Wednesday: DeMar DeRozan (death of father), Rudy Gay (health and safety protocols), Keldon Johnson (health and safety protocols), Devin Vassell (health and safety protocols), Quinndary Weatherspoon (health and safety protocols) and Derrick White (health and safety protocols).

Also, F LaMarcus Aldridge(hip) practiced on Monday, and according to the team, his status for Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma City will be updated on Tuesday. 

Getting shut down was bad timing for the Spurs when you consider they had won five of their last six games and playing decent basketball, but with COVID-19 out there, it’s just good to be alive.

Pop on Rodeo Road Trip: ‘It’s an opportunity to come together and concentrate on basketball without too many distractions’

It’s that time of the year when the San Antonio Spurs go on their annual Rodeo Road Trip. This year the road trip will be seven games, starting on Friday night in Atlanta against the Hawks.

This is the 19th edition of this road trip, which started in 2003, and in the past, the Spurs have had a lot of success on this trip. The Spurs’ all-time RRT record is 93-54 (.633). San Antonio has gone .500 or better in 14 of 18 seasons on this Trip, but the past three seasons have not been good. San Antonio is 5-17 in the last three seasons on this trip and was 2-6 last season.

With the Covid-19 protocols in place, the team will not be able to do all the things teams usually do on a road trip, but according to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, this trip could be very positive. 

“It’s important every year,” Popovich said about the Rodeo Road Trip. “It’s an opportunity to come together and concentrate on basketball without too many distractions. It will be a long, tough trip. We can make it real positive and grow from it.”

They’re some very winnable games on this trip. None of the seven teams that San Antonio plays on this trip is over .500, so this could be a chance for the Spurs to rack up some victories. San Antonio has actually played better on the road than at home. San Antonio is 7-8 at home, but they are 7-3 away from AT&T Center.

At 14-11, the Spurs are sixth-seed in the Western Conference. Furthermore, six of the seven teams the Spurs play on this trip are in the Eastern Conference, and the Spurs are 3-0 against Eastern Conference teams. 

Maybe, just maybe, if this trip is a big-time success, the Spurs could move up in the standings out West.

The Spurs will travel 3,879 total miles over 13 days on the Rodeo Road Trip this season, including one back-to-back before returning to the AT&T Center on 2/27.

Rodeo Road Trip Schedule:

@ Atlanta 2/12

@ Charlotte 2/14

@ Detroit 2/16

@ Cleveland 2/17

@ New York 2/20

@ Indiana 2/22

@ Oklahoma City 2/24

Spurs’ Popovich on Grizzlies: ‘They kicked our butts’

The San Antonio(11-10) had an unforgettable two-game set against the Memphis Grizzlies(9-6) at AT&T Center, including Monday night’s 133-102 beatdown by the Grizzlies. 

Before the two-game set with Memphis, San Antonio was on a three-game winning streak and playing terrific basketball, including wins over Boston and Denver. However, against Memphis, it was a different story. In the two games with the Grizzlies, San Antonio was outscored by 48 points. 

The two games against Memphis was a disappointment for the Spurs, but it’s a long season. According to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, Memphis was just the better team in these two games against San Antonio. 

“Give a lot of credit to Memphis,” Popovich said after the game. “They played great, both games. They were just tougher in so many ways than we were, their physicality on defense, their execution on offense. We were really behind. In a 48-minute game, I say, probably, in the third quarter, we looked like we’ve looked lately for about six minutes, but other than that, they sliced us and diced us and deserved the wins for sure. 

“It had nothing to do with we didn’t shoot well or we did this or we did that. They kicked our butts, and we did not play the basketball we’ve been playing for whatever reason, so we’ll stick together; we’ll go back to work, but those were two very tough losses by a team who really executed well, and I give them full credit.”

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson, who had a team-high 25 points for San Antonio, added: “We know we have a lot of work to be a good team. These are games we definitely wish we could get, and we need it, but it’s gone now. We just gotta look forward, put our big boy pants on and go out there and get it down the next time.”

When you consider Memphis is on a seven-game winning streak, losing two straight games to the Grizzlies could be understandable but not acceptable. San Antonio should have least gotten a split against Memphis. 

However, the Spurs are a young team, so these types of performances are not surprising. San Antonio finishes their five-game homestand on Wednesday night against the Timberwolves.