The San Antonio Spurs gave a great effort against the Philadelphia 76ers but were never able to get over the hump. The game followed a very strict pattern. Philly would build a double-digit lead then the Spurs would come back to make it competitive. This continued throughout the majority of the game until the Spurs ran out of comebacks, falling short once again and extending their losing streak to eight games.
The defensive effort felt better than the previous game against the Washington Wizards, but it was mostly an illusion. It should be noted that 76ers are not an offensive juggernaut. They struggle with turnovers, shooting from beyond the arc, and prefer slowing the game down with a heavy dose of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in the post. The 76ers ended up turning the ball over four more times than the Spurs but were able to win the turnover battle by outscoring the Spurs 12 to 7 in points off turnovers. The 76ers shot over 51 percent from the floor, were +12 in points from deep, and ended up scoring 115 points which is 6 points above their season average. So really the Spurs were still very bad at defense, it just happened at a much slower pace.
Coach Pop opted for size to start the game, inserting Dejounte Murray back into the starting lineup and giving Jakob Poeltl his second straight start of the season. It sort of worked early on, as the 76ers were unable to build a lead due to some early turnovers. As we saw last season, a lineup consisting of both LaMarcus Aldridge and Poeltl is better defensively but really struggles on offense. Because of this, the Spurs found themselves down 10-14 midway through the first quarter. That’s not so bad all things considered, but it felt like the Spurs were hanging on for dear life. Sure enough, three straight three point shots later, the Spurs found themselves in an all-too-familiar double-digit first quarter deficit.
Something strange happened in the final two minutes of the first quarter: Aldridge played with fire. Embiid is known for running his mouth on the court, so I don’t know if he said something or if Aldridge was simply auditioning for the Boston Celtics, but for that two minute stretch of basketball Aldridge reminded everybody how dominate he could be on offense if he played with more of an edge. And there lies the problem. If Aldridge has the ability to take it to a fantastic defensive player like Embiid, why does he go quarters and even games at a time seemingly coasting his way around the court? It’s frustrating to say the least.
Both the Spurs and 76ers scored 58 points in the middle two frames, giving the Spurs a chance heading into the fourth quarter. That’s really all a struggling team can ask for on the road against one of the better teams in the NBA. The fourth quarter was much of the same. The 76ers would extend their lead only to watch the Spurs make them sweat it out. Despite the effort, it never really felt like a game that the Spurs were going to win. As we’ve seen all season, constantly playing from behind takes its toll, and as we’ve seen all season, the Spurs’ comeback attempt once again fell short.
Will the Spurs ever win another game? The Spurs play a SEGABABA tomorrow against the New York Knicks. It’s still early in the season, but this game could have an impact on ping pong balls next summer. It’s sad this is my mentality in November, but this is where I’m at right now with this team.
- Rudy Gay was easily the best player for the Spurs against the 76ers. He scored a season high 22 points on only 11 shots. It was a shame he only logged 27 minutes. Poeltl has been much better as of late, but he really got abused by Embiid in the fourth quarter. It would have been nice to see Gay come in earlier to try and bring a little more offensive firepower to the Spurs’ lineup before the game got out of reach.
- DeMar DeRozan had another nice night shooting the ball, scoring 29 points on 52% shooting. He finished with a team worst -21 though, so I really don’t know what to make of it. DeRozan was aggressive, but only ended up with five free throw attempts. There was one possession with about four minutes to go in the game where DeRozan was clearly fouled. A no call led to a block and a transition bucket for the 76ers. That possession was the nail in the coffin for the Spurs. Pop called a timeout to yell at the refs, but showed quite a bit more restraint than I had imagined. I was certain an ejection was in his near future.
- Bryn Forbes was way off tonight. He hit only one of his eight shots from deep, and had probably two of his worst looking shots all season. Forbes needs to start having a shorter leash. When he is isn’t hitting his shots there’s nothing else he brings to the table except allowing whoever he is guarding to go off for career nights.
- I don’t like having two traditional bigs in the starting lineup. It can work in small stretches of certain games, but it’s too congested on offense. Embiid and Al Horford are both big, but both can also play from the perimeter, so Poeltl isn’t really a great fit against that lineup despite the appearance.
- Maybe Trey Lyles truly is this season’s Dante Cunningham. He barely played against the Wizards and only played in garbage time against the 76ers. Just when Spurs fans were starting to get excited about the signing he gets removed from the rotation. Sounds about right.
- I really think Murray needs to try his luck in the sixth man role once White returns to the lineup. He looked much better off the bench against the Wizards than he had in a while, though it is the Wizards, so maybe it meant nothing. It hasn’t been a great stretch of basketball for him. I’m not at all worried about his longterm prospects, but for now he needs to learn to crawl before he can run. Actually, it’s more like he should learn to run with the bench unit before he can crawl with the starting lineup. Something like that.