Murray’s jumpers key preseason rout

October 6, 2018

The Spurs’ old Big Three era is dead. Long live the Spurs’ new Big Three era.

At least that’s how Detroit coach Dwane Casey sees it.

In LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay, Casey sees another playoff contender brewing in San Antonio.

“You have got three really good pieces there to figure it out with,” Casey said.

If young point guard Dejounte Murray continues to shoot the ball as he did in Friday’s 117-93 lambasting of Casey’s Pistons, there might be a fourth name to add to that list.

Murray scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 22 minutes, as the Spurs routed Detroit to improve to 2-0 this preseason.

These Spurs won’t make anyone forget the heyday of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili just yet, but it has been a solid start for this new iteration.

“Another preseason game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “A lot of people got to play, everybody hustled. Now it’s on to game No. 3 (Sunday against Houston).”

In a development that should hearten shooting coach Chip Engelland, the 22-year-old Murray did most of his damage on jump shots outside the paint.

He finished 7 of 12 from the floor, with only one of his baskets coming at the rim.

Aldridge added 14 points, with Pau Gasol contributing 13 points and Marco Belinelli 12 off the bench. Belinelli had 10 of his points during an eight-minute stretch of the first half, as the Spurs controlled the game from the start.

But it was Murray, firing away from 18 feet, who raised the most eyebrows.

“He’s worked on all those things,” Popovich said. “And it shows.”

Entering his third NBA season, Murray has no illusions about the shoes he has to fill as the Spurs’ point guard.

“That’s Tony Parker,” Murray said of the Spurs icon, who this season is making a pit stop in Charlotte on his way to the Naismith Hall of Fame. “He’s the greatest point guard to ever put on a Spurs uniform and it’s going to stay that way for a long time.”

Occasionally, however, Murray will do something Parker never could.

Once such moment came in the second quarter when, on a fast break, Murray took a lob pass from Dante Cunningham for a two-handed alley-oop slam.

That was Murray’s lone bucket to come from inside the paint.

The Spurs would like for Murray to be more like Parker in one specific way.

Parker wasn’t much of a jump shooter when he entered the league. By the time he left town, Parker’s 15-foot jumper had become as lethal a weapon as his patented tear drop.

The Spurs would like Murray to trend that direction too.

“Tony was a mid-range guy,” Aldridge said. “If (Murray) can get that mid-range down like Tony had, anything’s possible.”

There is a long way to go for Murray to be that guy on a nightly basis.

He had it working Friday, though. Midway through the third quarter, Murray hit back-to-back contested jumpers - the likes of which he might not have tried last season - to extend the Spurs’ lead to 17.

The Spurs eventually pushed that edge as high as 34, turning in as dominating a performance as is possible in the preseason.

These Spurs might not be championship ready, but with Murray performing as he did Friday they seemed to take a big step forward.


Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN

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