The San Antonio Spurs fell behind early in their contest against a Charlotte Hornets team that came out of the gates red hot, and never recovered. The defense couldn’t slow down the visitor’s league-best attack, and the offense couldn’t score enough to keep it close. The lead ballooned as much as 27 before the benches were emptied and the good guys made the final score more respectable.
It was a high octane start to the game for both teams. The action was a bit chaotic which resulted in high scoring — 19 combined points in the opening 3:30 to be exact — but the visitors had the upper hand. The Hornets were getting whatever they wanted from the outside and inside the paint, logging 25 points in 6 minutes, going 5/7 from three and tallying 10 points in the paint. Pop tried to counter the slow start by sitting 4 of his 5 starters, with only Jakob Poeltl surviving. The bench for San Antonio (Minus Lonnie Walker who was ruled out with an Illness hours earlier) did bring more effort on the defensive end but Charlotte were just red-hot and nothing was going to stop the ball from finding the hole. The away team ended up with 46 first quarter points, which included 10 threes as the Spurs found themselves down 15 after 1; 46-31.
The break between quarters didn’t cool down the Hornets, with Terry Rozier hitting two more threes for Charlotte in the first two minutes of the second. The Spurs responded with a run by getting out in transition in front of the defense for easy buckets and free throws. Then after Eubanks took a charge and Keldon Johnson hit a spin move floater, the Spurs found themselves only down 8. Unfortunately, Gordon Hayward who has become more prominent in the Hornets offense with the absence of last year’s Rookie of the Year, LaMelo Ball, was looking unstoppable as he was getting any shot he craved, whether that was from the outside, mid-range or in the paint. A 13-6 run to end the half from Charlotte left the Spurs down 73-57 at the half-time break.
The Spurs came out fast as they looked to get back into the contest, with 2 threes and a fast break dunk that cut the margin back down to 10. Unfortunately, they simply couldn’t get over the hump of a double-digit deficit. They missed opportunity after opportunity to put the pressure on the Hornets. Gordon Hayward took advantage of San Antonio’s inability to capitalize, as he went off in the third period, with 21 points as the Hornets had a comfortable 20+ point lead. The Spurs were down 110-82 entering the final period.
The final quarter was a wash. The lead was too big to claw back, but Pop did play his starters quite deep into the final frame. Whether he was trying give them some momentum heading into the road trip or sending a message about their poor play in the first three quarters didn’t really matter. In the end, the Spurs ended up on the wrong side of a blow-out in this 131-115 demolishing.
- Spurs Defense. For the most part of this season the Spurs D has been their saving grace, even winning them multiple games when their offense would stall, but today their defense was a much bigger problem than their scoring. They gave up 131 points total, but 110 in the first 3 quarters. You have to give the Hornets credit for their superb shot making, but the Spurs didn’t seem to communicate well enough on their rotations and this left shooters wide open. Also, the Hornets seem to be a bad matchup for the Spurs due to the size of their perimeter players (Hayward, Bridges, Martin, McDaniels). The Spurs so often just got bulldozed over whenever a Hornets player wanted to get to the paint. Hopefully this is just an anomaly of a game for the defense and they can get back to their best for this upcoming road trip.
- Three-point shooting disparity. Live by the three, die by the three. That’s the way the NBA seems to be these days and this game was no different. The Hornets went 18/34 from three while the Spurs went 12/37. Hornets won.
- Trade Season. Now that December 15th has passed, the majority of the NBA can now be traded, which opens up for more trade possibilities. The trade deadline isn’t until February 10th so there may not be many deals soon but there is a strong possibility the Spurs may be involved in a trade or two before the deadline. Keep an eye on Pop’s rotations in the coming weeks and months as it may signal who the Spurs may be looking to trade (Thad Young, the most likely).
- It was the Spurs’ 27th game of the year, signaling the end of the first third of the season. San Antonio sits at 10-17 and outside of the top 10 in the West.
Play of the Game
Not much to cheer for from today but this was a neat reverse layup from KJ.
Keldon Johnson with the reverse layup. #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/C5QVnzaQiS— Joe Garcia (@twoshotspodcast) December 16, 2021
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
3rd place (1 point): Tre Jones | 17 minutes, 2 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds
Yes, Keldon should probably get this 3rd place, but I wanted to reward Tre Jones for his performance over the first third of the season. Nearly every time Tre has seen the floor he has been a positive, and I think it’s only right he gets his first SVP point of the season.
2nd place (2 points): Derrick White | 31 minutes, 18 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds
Derrick didn’t shoot the ball well (3/10) but he continued his fine play in other ways. He went 10/10 from the free throw line as he was aggressive getting downhill all game long. White had 2 threes as well, plus he was the Spurs best defender in a game where defense was scarce for San Antonio.
1st place (3 points): Bryn Forbes | 19 minutes, 25 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound
Season high 25 points for Bryn and he got it from all over the floor. 3 threes, and he made 10 free throws just like Derrick White.
1st - Dejounte Murray - 43pts
2nd - Derrick White - 26pts
3rd - Devin Vassell - 21pts
4th - Keldon Johnson - 18pts
5th - Jakob Poeltl - 17pts
6th - Thaddeus Young - 9pts
7th - Bryn Forbes - 8pts
8th - Doug McDermott & Lonnie Walker IV - 7pts each
9th - Drew Eubanks - 2pts
10th - Jock Landale, Josh Primo, Keita Bates-Diop & Tre Jones - 1pt each
Next Game: @ Jazz on Friday
The Spurs start the second third of their season against the Utah Jazz which kicks off a 4 game road trip. The Jazz are one of the best teams in the league and have an extremely explosive offense, so the Spurs defense will have to be back to their best to even have a shot of upsetting the Jazz.