San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked before Tuesday afternoon’s game what he would tell anyone if he was told a month ago that his team could go 6-2 in the NBA resume and possibly made play off.
“I would have tried them with drugs,”; closed Popovich.
San Antonio had eliminated three injury starters for Orlando – LaMarcus Aldridge, Trey Lyles and Bryn Forbes – and were planning to cut Patty Mills minutes in order to focus on development.
But after Tuesday’s 123-105 victory over the Houston Rockets, San Antonio has won five of seven games in the bubble and could make the game play in the Western Conference with some help from other teams – something Popovich said before the game. to be “icing on the cake”.
“You have to be realistic. I do not think our chances of winning a championship were great at the beginning of this and neither are they now,” Popovich said before the match. “If this is a fact, then you have to do everything you can to develop and prepare for next season.
“With three starters out, sitting down Patty makes sense. The development has been off the charts. We are excited about it. It’s a win, no matter what. … But we have already achieved what we thought we were capable of “Realized. That is what is important.”
Without Aldridge or Lyles, San Antonio chose to go with a starting lineup of four guards featuring Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker and DeMar DeRozan alongside Jakob Poeltl.
Walker, who had 12 points and seven rebounds against Houston, said he felt the team is done together in Orlando.
“Entering the bubble and playing together, not just on the court, but with practice, our intensity in practice has been amazing,” Walker said. “Ever since I was here, it has never felt like this in terms of rising and rising in aggression and having that intensity consistently. It has been great to have good vibrations and everything is actually going to court. “.
Popovich said the development would be significant – and it has shown itself with rookie guard Keldon Johnson, who spent most of the season in the G-League and only played nine games with San Antonio before the break.
In those nine games, Johnson averaged 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. In seven games in Orlando, Johnson is averaging 12.7 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 63.0% from the field while going 10th-14th (71.4%) from depth.
Johnson had a career-high 24 points and 11 rebounds against Houston.
“He’s a high-energy guy and he’s very physical,” Popovich told Johnson. “He is very competitive, very trainable. He is just a winner.”
DeRozan, who leads the team on points per game (21.7) and assists per game (5.7), said he felt like San Antonio could put itself in the position for a play-off team once the NBA announced that 22 teams were coming into the bubble.
“Only we who have a chance to be here; that’s all we needed,” DeRozan said. “For me, once I saw our name and we had the opportunity, no matter the percentages of doing it or whatever, I still believed we would be right here where we are.”