Following a three-day break, the San Antonio Spurs hosted the red-hot Phoenix Suns on Monday night. Phoenix who were on the second leg on a back-to-back, led by double digits for most of the game before the good guys mounted a thrilling comeback in the final minutes, but it was too little too late as San Antonio lost 115-111 and is now on a five-game losing streak.
The two teams traded mid-range jumpers to begin the contest, which wasn't a surprise given the personnel on both sides. Quick possessions were exchanged back and forth, but neither club capitalized on their opportunities, and the players all seemed to be gassed faster than usual. As a result, the first quarter was a low-scoring affair that ended with the teams combining for just 44 points, which was less than the 48 that Phoneix put up in the opening period alone when they played Denver on Sunday.
Unfortunately, the Suns quickly broke open the game when Thad Young stepped on the court. Without either Jakob Poeltl or Drew Eubanks on the floor, the Spurs lacked a rim-protecting big who could contain Deandre Ayton or Javale McGee. Phoenix’s centres were able to get wide-open dunks and layups with ease, which helped the Suns build a double-digit lead. Devin Vassell helped stem the bleeding somewhat by hitting a pair of threes, but the rest of San Antonio’s offense remained clunky and out of sorts, allowing the Suns to maintain control of the game.
The Spurs’ defensive struggles continued to begin the second half, as they had a hard time containing the CP3/Ayton two-man game. Thankfully, Vassell stayed hot and hit a few self-generated buckets, as the sophomore guard continued to showcase his expanded offensive repertoire. This helped the good guys make it a six point game, but Phoenix continued to generate good looks from deep, which resulted in them building the lead back up.
The Spurs, however, refused to go away. With Phoenix on the second night of a back-to-back and the good guys returning from three days off, it was evident that the home team had some more energy to give. Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV began to take turns as the ball handler in the pick and roll with Poeltl, who was the beneficiary of a few wide-open layups.
Phoenix managed to regain their composure and go on a 10-0 run, but San Antonio just wouldn’t quit and made it a one-possession game with less than 20 seconds left on the clock. After Devin Booker made a free throw to put the Suns back up by four, the Spurs failed to capitalize in the dying seconds. With that said, they still gave the fans something to cheer for as this team never fails to entertain regardless of the outcome.
- Can we start a petition to get Vassell some more shots? I’ve said this a couple of times this season already, but the Spurs need to do a better job of finding him when he gets hot. San Antonio did a better job of that on Monday night, but Vassell’s still not touching the ball as much as he should. Perhaps becoming more involved in the offense will help him get in a rhythm more often, which could only be a good thing given the strides he’s made in terms of shooting and self-creation.
- The Spurs’ bigs were having a hard time containing Phoenix’s guards, especially when they ran the PnR. There were instances when Poeltl and Eubanks stepped up and briefly “blitzed” the ballhandler before running back to protect the rim, but they were often too slow to recover and left the Suns’ centres wide-open for too long.
- Both teams attempted just 16 free throws, but Phoenix made 13 while the Spurs converted on just 8. That’s the difference in the ball game right there, and a lot of San Antonio’s struggles at the line have unsurprisingly been caused by Poeltl. The 26-year-old made just 1/6 of his attempts, which is a disappointing figure especially since it seemed like he had improved in the final stretch of last season.
Play of the game
Murray came up with one of the clutches steals of the season in the dying seconds of the game, which also happened to seal his third triple-double of the year.
DEJOUNTE. MURRAY.— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) November 23, 2021
Third triple-double of the season! pic.twitter.com/exMThnnioK
3rd place (1 point) - Derrick White | 19 points, four assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Derrick has struggled with his shot this season, especially behind the line. That continued on Monday night as he converted just 1/5 from deep. However, he more than made up for it with his timely scoring and defensive play, as he made critical plays down the stretch that helped the Spurs almost complete the comeback.
2nd place (2 points) - Dejounte Murray | 18 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals
Murray continues to be San Antonio's unquestionable MVP this season. He struggled shooting from the field (9/22) but made clutch plays like the one shown above and also came up big in the fourth quarter when the team needed him most.
1st place (3 points) - Devin Vassell | 17 points, 3/6 from deep
As mentioned before, Vassell has quietly put together a breakout season and his offensive game seems to improve every game. The sophomore guard is showing real flashes of shot-creation and will force Pop to feature him more in the offense sooner or later, which could provide a huge boost to the team as a whole.
1st - Dejounte Murray - 27pts
2nd - Devin Vassell - 20pts
3rd - Keldon Johnson - 14pts
4th - Jakob Poeltl, Thaddeus Young, and Derrick White - 8pts each
5th - Doug McDermott - 5pts
6th - Drew Eubanks and Lonnie Walker IV- 2pts
7th - Bryn Forbes & Jock Landale- 1pt each
Next game: Vs. Hawks on Wednesday
The Spurs will look to get back in the win column against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks, a team who haven’t started the season as well as they expected.