Derrick White really can not be that important, right? The absence of a second-year player who has just started 33 games should not make a postseason team look so bewildered. But at least in the Spurs' punches on Thursday night in Portland, that's exactly what happened.
The Trail Blazers defensive scheme attributed responsibility to the Spurs' stars in the individual matches, something that DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay could take advantage of. The two combined for 60 points on only 46 shooting possessions (43 shots and 3 shooting misses). LaMarcus Aldridge, meanwhile, struggled to score efficiently against the defenders of the Post Blazers, throwing only 17 points on 21 shooting possessions (19 shots and 2 shooting misses).
The three combined for 77 points, but only had 9 badists compared to 13 turnovers. That's exactly what the Trail Blazers expected. By trusting their defenders in single coverage, the Trail Blazers were able to stay at home with the Spurs shooters, turning one of the Spurs' greatest strengths into a weakness.
The Spurs publications, in particular, provided little value. He was sent to the block 26 times and scored only 9 points on 14 shots with 5 turnovers and no badistance.
The team's total of 19 badists in the game was only the tenth time in the entire season that they have stayed below 20, and have only won one of those games. The disposition and ability of the Trail Blazers to protect the stars of the Spurs limited those opportunities. Davis Bertans, for example, took only 2 shots and his only mark was a rare dunk.
The Spurs were especially vulnerable to this type of defensive scheme because, once again, they lacked a true point guard in the lineup. There is a difference between splitting the defense, something in which DeMar, Rudy and LaMarcus stand out, and manipulating the defense to induce errors.
With DeMar, Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills completing shifts, the Spurs still scored well, accumulating 120.4 points for every 100 possessions. But his 18 turnovers, and the 22 points scored by the Trail Blazers, were too big a deficit to overcome.
Of course, if the Spurs could use the same defensive scheme against the Trail Blazers, they would have been in a much better position. His inability to stand in front of, along with, or even in the vicinity of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum led to a parade of open shots.
The Trail Blazers average 45 open and open looks per game and have an eFG of 54.9 on those shots this season. They took 53 in this game and their eFG percentage was 61.3. Part of that was due to a bad transition defense, both turnovers and live rebounds, which led to 18 points in the quick breaks, but the Spurs defense was not good in the half court either.
For Cleaning the Glbad, the Trail Blazers scored 113 points for every 100 plays against the Spurs defense. Even more than in the offensive, this is where they most missed Derrick. The Spurs are 5.2 points per 100 best plays in defense on the half court with Derrick on the floor, the best mark on the team by far. Against a team that predicts its attack on the abilities of two dynamic guards, such as the Trail Blazers, that number is probably low.
It was too easy for them to exploit the imbalances and punish the Spurs for their need to change and help.
This, too, is something that Derrick could have handled much better than any of the team's other healthy guards.
Certainly not his best player. He is not even in the top three on most nights. But in games like this, he could easily be the most important player on the team because he brings a lot to the table that is unique on this list. There is simply no way for the team to improvise a little bit of amalgamation of their games, shots and defense with the parts they have available. Against other teams, his absence may not have such an impact, but in this game, he was very surprised.