The Spurs wrapped up their little East coast road trip Wednesday night, as they limped into Philadelphia to take on a 76ers team hungry for a big win. Squaring off with former Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown, whose team is littered with up and coming playmakers, proved to be quite the challenge.
With San Antonio on the second night of a back-to-back and five core contributors with the night off, rookie sensation Ben Simmons came firing out out of the gates to put the Spurs’ backs against the wall. The good guys eventually settled in and countered with a run of their own behind an offensive clinic in the third frame.
Ultimately the gritty comeback was countered in the fourth by the exuberant Joel Embiid, and the Spurs fell short in the final minutes as the game slipped away in the city of brotherly love. Despite the loss, this game spoke volumes about this team’s toughness and resiliency. On a night with so many factors working against them, they persevered and refused to mail it in. This game will likely not be talked about again for the rest of the season, but the importance of breakthroughs like this cannot be understated.
Here are a few takeaways from the hard-fought effort.
- After a shaky start in which the Spurs had a hard time getting him the ball, LaMarcus Aldridge reminded us why he’ll be a sure fire all star next month. Philadelphia’s length and athleticism caused him a few problems in the first half, but he persevered and eventually bullied his way into a double-double. What really stands out about LA’s performance was ability to stray away from settling for jumpers and instead began to attack the teeth of the defense. His ability to out-muscle the opposition is something Spurs fans have to enjoy. The former Longhorn’s dedication to his craft has been well documented this season, and this game should go down as another milestone in what has become a special season for the big man.
- Patty Mills may not have delivered his most efficient night (although his stat sheet is a bit skewed as he was forced into some desperation threes late in the game), but the Spurs would have been run out of the building without the gutsy Aussie on the floor. His 13 point outburst in the 3rd quarter ignited a run that broke the Sixers’ stranglehold on the game. His passion may have been what first made him a fan favorite in San Antonio, but what I’ve always loved is his resiliency. He could be 0-10 from deep, but he has 100 percent confidence the next one is going down. His resolve never wavers, and that is a big part of what made the comeback possible tonight.
- I thought Bryn Forbes did a great job competing, and he was 6-11 from the field on a night that the Spurs needed points, but his first quarter defense was beyond suspect. That he ended up a +5 on the night is exhibit A in the case against plus/minus stats. As long as he remains physical and the coaching staff does their best to hide him on a spot up shooter, they’ll be able to keep him on the court for his offense. His confidence shooting the ball is obviously peaking, and he looks like a different player than last year. Despite disappearing a bit in the fourth, Forbes was a steady contributor on offense, as he hit some key shots in the third quarter run that brought the Spurs back within 4 heading into the final quarter.
- One night after I praised Kyle Anderson’s defense, SLOWMO had a tough assignment with Simmons. He had an another crazy-efficient scoring night with 14 points on just 8 shots, and only missed a single field goal. He had a steal and a slow-break, and his ability to create offense was desperately needed on a night that the Spurs lacked their usual playmakers.
- Davis Bertans was steady against the Sixers and delivered a predictable performance. On any other night DB would be getting praise for coming off of the bench and canning a couple of threes, however in games like this when he sees a major uptick in minutes, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a bit more from the Latvian sharpshooter.