The Spurs Vegas opener followed the much anticipated Sixers Lakers matchup. In case you missed it, Deangelo Russell hit a buzzer beater to give the Lakers the 1 point victory in the Brandon Ingram vs. Ben Simmons matchup. Thomas & Mack arena was packed with both Lakers fans, Lakers haters, and Summer League-goers eager to see the top two picks. It was as exciting a Summer League finish you could get.
But as elated as the stands were, Thomas and Mack fell completely flat as the Spurs and Warriors tipped off directly after. Most ticket-holders filed out to their dinner plans before the game even started. Media members who had been there since noon called it a night. Only Spurs and Warriors faithful remained.
The game mirrored the lack of energy as both teams turned the ball over and failed to make many shots. The Spurs feigned ball movement but ultimately devolved into a heavy dose of Slow-Mo one one one. Trailing 33-27 at the half, there was not much to be excited about other than an ATO elevator play to combat a Warriors 2-3 zone- yes, the Spurs shot so poorly the Warriors packed it in with a 2-3 zone.
And yet, I had no doubt the Spurs would pull out the game. Trailing to a Warriors team with one potential NBA player on the court in Patrick McCaw was inexcusable. With two current NBA players in Jonathan Simmons, Kyle Anderson, D-League MVP Jarnell Stokes, and promising young players in Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes (who is playing well), a loss to that Warriors roster would have been bad.
The Spurs showed their organizational strength in rallying back into the game with strong help defense, better ball movement, and a 25 point third quarter (that's high when you score 63 for an entire game...). Becky Hammon stood the entire game, encouraging young players, demanding defense and rebounding, and making constant adjustments after Warriors baskets. That's not what you saw throughout the day at Summer League as some teams are content to simply see what players they have and ignore the scoreboard. But winning is cultural and the Spurs and Becky Hammon were determined to start 1-0 in Vegas.
The Spurs overcame an abysmal 35% from the field, 19 turnovers to just 7 assists, and a combined 8 for 22 from the field from Anderson and Simmons. While just one summer league game, there was a distinct difference in the style and poise of San Antonio. The fist-pump from Hammon after the game-winner capped it off nicely.
With 1.8 seconds left Hammon called timeout to nullify a last-second heave. You could see her drawing up something in the huddle and players completely locked in and focused. This is what came of it:
To start, you have Kyle Anderson, the number one option in this situation taking the ball out. With just 1.8 seconds left, there's not enough time for him to get the ball back. That's unique. You then see Forbes, their best three-point shooter lined up in the opposite corner with Will Cummings and Jonathan Simmons set up to double screen Forbes. Murray is ball-side corner. The double screen for Forbes is the obvious first look and sets up any other action.
Watch the video from the 2 to 4 second mark. Cummings screens for Forbes. Simmons doesn't. Simmons slips the screen and finds himself open rolling to the rim. Cummings defender attempts to help but is late. The play has worked. Simmons, Forbes, and Cummings are all open. Simmons is actually the least open. But with a step on his defender and being the more trusted option for Anderson, Simmons is chosen.
Anderson gives the lob to Simmons who leaps up to catch it amidst two defenders. Winning the toss-up, his momentum carries him towards the sideline with the help defender flying past. Simmons has just enough time to gather, square his chest towards the basket and convert the one-handed hook. Watch it one more time for good measure.
A few members of the media caught up with Becky Hammon after the game:
"We wanted something going at the rim. Obviously, they put the big guy on Kyle and Kyle did a very smart thing to ball-fake and kind of got him angled off, and we know he's a great passer, and Simmons is athletic enough to go up and get that."
She had an exhausted but confident demeanor after the long day:
"We just found a way to win that one, it wasn't pretty, and we've got lots to build off."
When J.A. Adande asked Hammon the secret to out of bounds plays, she expounded further:
"I just think everybody knowing what they're doing. I think a lot of times you get in and the board looks all jumbled and crazy, and guys don't know exactly what they're doing. You just try to be as clear as possible with them and make sure everyone's on the same page. I think organization is huge...they got to understand the timing of the play. We got some pretty cerebral guys."
She paused after the mostly boilerplate response and decided to continue:
"I mean some of these plays they've never seen before, they're just taking them right off the board. So we give them a lot of credit, not all players can do that and certainly our guys can."
With Duncan's retirement looming, and following a disappointing end to the 2015-2016 campaign, the Spurs execution and game-winner dialed up by Hammon reminded us just how strong this organization is and will continue to be. The Spurs get back to action at 10EST/7PST against Portland.