The ‘Spurs’ Way’ has been the norm for nearly two decades.
The colors, the name and the attitude have permeated the G League team in Austin since San Antonio took over the team in 2009, but the culture truly came to fruition Sunday night.
Derrick White, a 1st round pick looked over by many other teams in the NBA Draft, scored 35 points and the Austin Spurs beat Raptors 905 in Game 1 of the G League Finals at the HEB Center.
“A lot of the stuff they all about in San Antonio, we do down here,” White said. “So it’s the same culture throughout the entire organization. It makes things a lot easier. My teammates really make it easy.”
White spent three seasons at a Division II school in Colorado before transferring to the University of Colorado for his senior season. He was named first-team all-conference and earned a spot on the all-defensive team.
He hasn’t been shy offensively during his time in Austin, scoring 20 points in the Conference semifinal win against the RGV Vipers and tallying 35 points in the Western Conference Final win against the South Bay Lakers on Thursday.
“He’s pretty good,” Spurs head coach Blake Ahearn said. “He’s pretty darn good. Those types of players make the coaching staff look smart. He does a good job of taking what the game gives him as well as being aggressive. I’m thankful he’s here.”
Austin got on the board first after a pair of Toronto turnovers, but neither team shot the ball well to start the game. Three minutes into the game, Matt Costello landed hard on his right side and had to be helped to bench.
The ball movement message from San Antonio rang loud and clear as the first quarter went on. All five Austin players on the floor touched the ball before Johnson hit a 3-pointer to give the Spurs a 22-21 lead.
White accelerated to the basket early in the second quarter to give Austin its biggest lead of the half at 10 points and Amida Brimah collected a rebound with four minutes left in the half that led to a triple by Julian Washburn.
Austin hit six of 11 shots from beyond the arc in the first half.
White scored the first seven points for the Spurs in the second half and finished with 16 of the team’s 18 points in the period.
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” White said. “My teammates did a great job of getting me an open look early and from there I saw a huge basket and just decided to attack.”
The Raptors ended the frame on a 6-3 run to cut the lead to five points.
The Raptors went on an 11-4 run midway into the fourth quarter to tie the game at 89 with six minutes left to play, but the Spurs responded with a 16-4 run of their own to close out the game in dominant fashion.
The last time the Raptors and Spurs faced off was on New Year’s Eve when Toronto dominated Austin 93-78. The team was in the midst of a 21-day road trip when the ‘Bomb Cyclone’ hit the Northeast. The team was forced to wait on a plane for more than three hours at one point, Ahearn was forced to coaching in a golf shirt and pant instead of his regular suit.
“If you look back at that trip, we lost all our baggage and it wasn’t our best trip,” Hilliard said. “They got us good and we knew how good they were. What happened to Derrick and a lot of guys growing into different roles, it really helps us out a lot.”
Game 2 will be in Canada Tuesday at 7 p.m. and the final game, if necessary, will return to Cedar Park Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
“They’re a great basketball team and they’ll be ready to play,” Ahearn said. “That’s where being together and being a close group helps. We’ve done that on the road at times and been through it all. We’re going to go up there with the same mindset we’ve had every single game.”