The Summer Spurs came from behind to beat the Summer Hawks 75-68 and will play for the Las Vegas Summer League championship on Monday. Kyle Anderson led all scorers with 22 points while Jonathon Simmons and Traveon Graham came up big off the bench with 19 and 12 respectively. Lamar Patterson had 16 points and seven rebounds for Atlanta in the losing effort.
Nothing worked for the Spurs in the first half. The Hawks' defense was fully aware that only Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons can create with any consistency. They loaded up on them and trapped after screens to get the ball out of their hands. The rest of the squad struggled to score while the Hawks were making shots and taking advantage of the difference in talent at the big men positions.
After a long Summer League the Spurs simply didn't look like they had much energy left. They were missing free throws and not displaying the hustle on the defensive end that had characterized other performances. The difference was 12 points in favor of the Hawks at halftime, 39-27 but could have been bigger.
Both teams started the second half cold before trading three-pointers. With the starters unable to close the gap Becky Hammon went to her bench and got the push she was looking for. The defense improved, with Youssou Ndoye bringing an interior presence. The Spurs got to push the ball in transition and Simmons finally found ways to break down the defense of the now seemingly exhausted Hawks. San Antonio scored more points in the third quarter (28) than in the entire first half and took the lead before going into the final period.
The Hawks refused to go away but with Simmons, Anderson and Jerrell Eddie all clicking now, they lacked the firepower to regain the lead. There was always an answer by the Spurs, occasionally in the form of a momentum-building dunk.
After playing a terrible first half, the Spurs not only came back but avoided the late-game mistakes that had plagued him in past nights. Another Simmons' dunk put the game out of reach.
- Kyle Anderson often has to force the issue on offense because there's no one else on the starting lineup that can create. It would not have been surprising to see his efficiency drop significantly because of it but he has done a good job of being a good first option throughout the tournament thanks to his ability to get to the line. That's an encouraging sign for his future. He also tried to bring energy to the defensive end in the first half, which is always a welcomed sight. Slowmo has been great this summer. The one thing I would like to see him do is give a hard foul once in a while instead of allowing buckets when he's defending close to the rim.
- It's Summer League and we all should keep that in mind but Jonathon Simmons is a type of player the Spurs have lacked ever since Manu lost some of his athleticism. He can put the ball on the floor, navigate his way around defenders in a half court setting and finish at the rim. He can use either hand on layups and does a good job of changing things up on the pick and roll, sometimes "snaking" to the middle, others going away from the pick and occasionally going hard at the big, trying to turn the corner. I'm sold on him. Great signing.
- Youssou Ndoye has nice touch around the rim for such a huge man. If the Spurs could somehow combine his strengths with Cady Lalanne's, they would have a nice young prospect at center. Hopefully Lalanne continues to improve on his finishing ability.
- Because the Spurs' bigs are pretty bad Becky Hammon closed the game with five perimeter players on the floor. Traveon Graham was the default big man, checking Mike Muscala and setting screens. It was truly a great decision, as no one on the Hawks couldn't really take advantage of the lack of size. Not that anyone needs me to say this but Hammon definitely knows what she's doing.
- Jerrell Eddie has a ridiculously quick, pure shooting stroke but he needs to be more consistent in his aggressiveness. He sometimes seems perfectly happy not taking shots for an entire half, then fires three in a two-minute period. Danny Green used to have that problem but has made strides in recognizing opportunities to shoot that might not seem obvious or moving to get himself free. Eddie has tremendous potential as a three-point shooter but he won't reach it by being passive one moment and taking crazy shots the next.
- I want Graham in Austin next season. He doesn't do anything particularly well but can score from inside and out and does what he's told, even if it means checking a much bigger player. He could one day develop into an NBA player.
The Spurs will face the Suns on Monday. Let's get a sixth banner!
Update: Kyle Anderson has been named Las Vegas Summer League MVP. Congratulations, Kyle!