ORLANDO, Fla. — The San Antonio Spurs won their first game in 4 months Friday with a 127-119 victory over the Sacramento Kings in their debut game inside the NBA Bubble.
DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 27 points. Derrick White contributed 24 points and drew a team-high 5 charges in the winning effort.
Recap all of the action with our live updates below:
The Spurs' three scrimmages in the bubble looked vastly different than the rest of the season, as injuries and a focus on development changed the lineup significantly.
With LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles done for the year, Jakob Poeltl is shouldering the load as the team's primary big man. The lineup around him has changed as well, with Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV joining Dejounte Murray and DeMar DeRozan.
As for the Kings, they'll be without key big men as well. Marvin Bagley III sprained his foot in a scrimmage, and he's being held out for the remainder of the season. Center Alex Len is also listed as out.
Coach Gregg Popovich said before the game that the Spurs would use the same lineup they used in the scrimmages, which will present a unique set of challenges and opportunities that they didn't explore much through the first portion of this season. The trio of White, Walker and Murray had played just six minutes together in total before the restart.
In the scrimmages, the group of four large guards playing small ball with Poeltl had mixed results, but showed promise.
“It has been very successful at times,” Poeltl said at shootaround Friday. “I think it’s something a modern big man should do. There's also gonna be times when I have a real four, or a bigger four, on the court with me at the same time It’s just being flexible.”
Since arriving at the bubble as San Antonio's lone big man, Poeltl has downplayed any additional pressure on him, saying he's ready for the challenge, but it will be a team effort as always.
"I wouldn't say it puts more pressure on me, no. It changes the way we play a little bit," Poeltl said. "Our guards have to come in and help on rebounds a little bit more, but it gives us the opportunity to really be versatile outside the three (point line), switching a lot one through four."
“We’ve got to just compete, get up and down, play defense,” Murray added.
Rookie Keldon Johnson could play a big part in that defensive effort. His big body and tenacious attitude make him a problem for other teams, and players and coaches have raved about him so far in the bubble.
"He's like, do they still have mustangs out west? Do they do that? He's one of those kinda guys," Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said before the scrimmage against Indiana.
"He's kinda wild and very energetic, very aggressive, takes no prisoners, sticks his nose in, he likes contact, all that sort of thing. All in all he's a very competitive individual, and he's in the process of learning how to play. He's a very young man, and very willing, very teachable, he's got a great personality and he's somebody that we're very high on."
Bryn Forbes has started 143 games since the beginning of last season, more games than any other Spur. After missing the 118-111 victory in the final scrimmage against the Pacers, he will sit out today as well due to right quad tightness.
The Spurs will miss his shooting, as he led the team with 148 made threes so far this season. Patty Mills also hit 148 threes this year, and it's unclear if he'll play after missing the three scrimmages. In the absence of true sharpshooters, the coaching staff has emphasized the importance of outside shooting to guys like White and Walker.
Walker knocked down 5-8 triples in the scrimmages, seeking out the short corner and showing serious development in terms of his shot selection. White has decided to shoot more and more from outside, and though the results varied from game to game, his confidence did not.
If the Spurs can muster enough spacing and production from deep with this versatile defensive lineup, it could be the recipe for success not just in the bubble, but moving forward as well.