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San Antonio vs. Charlotte, Final Score: Spurs can’t make the final push in 100-97 loss to the Hornets

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Both teams struggled on offense in this one, but the Hornets made the big plays when it mattered the most.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs opened their franchise-record nine-game homestand with a dud, falling 100-97 to the Charlotte Hornets in an offensive struggle-fest. After a poor first half, the Spurs bounced back enough the make it a close game throughout the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t get out of their own way at times, and the Hornets always had an answer every time the Spurs threatened to steal the game.

DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 28 points on 11-16 shooting, and Derrick White had a nice bounce back game with 21 points, including 5-9 from three, and three blocks. Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier combined for 51 points on the night and were the main culprits at keeping all Spurs comeback attempts at bay in the second half.

Observations

  • Am I the only one who finds it odd that Nike not only has a complete vice grip on what uniform every team wears every game, but they can also dictate what color accessories they wear? For instance, tonight they had the Spurs wearing their road blacks with white leggings, sleeves and headbands: something they never did before Nike signed its contract with the league.
  • Apparently Fox Sports Southwest is getting rebranded to Bally Sports Southwest on March 31. After all these years I will have a lot of trouble calling it that, so apologies in advance if I keep calling it FSSW for while.
  • It was clear from the outset that White was trying to find his mojo again after a rough road trip, especially from three. He hit one on his first attempt of the game but missed his next two, including air-balling his third. However, he remained aggressive throughout the night, and possibly had the breakthrough game he needed. Hopefully he can keep building on this game going forward.
  • Gregg Popovich finally got some nerve to use his Coach’s Challenge, and early at that. With just under five minutes left in the first quarter, Jakob Poeltl appeared to recorded his third block of the night when the refs called him for his second foul in ten seconds. The challenge was successful, as video replay clearly showed he got all ball first, with the only contact being secondary from the follow-through. Unfortunately it only did them so much good as the first quarter Spurs did first quarter Spurs things (not hitting shots, turning it over, breaking down on defense, etc.), giving up a 14-4 run to close it out, leaving them down 31-21.
  • The second quarter Spurs initially appeared ready to do their part and bail their first quarter selves out. They picked up their defensive intensity to started the quarter on an 11-2 run to get back within a point, but the Hornets outscored them 22-13 the rest of the way to maintain a ten-point lead heading into the break. The reason it wasn’t more was on the possessions they weren’t completely breaking down on defense, the Spurs recorded 9 blocks — their most in any half since they recorded 10 against the Lakers in 2016 — plus the bench outscored their Hornets counterparts 17-8, mostly on that early run.
  • Surprisingly, Poeltl only got called for one moving screen in this game. Not every one called on him is legit — I’m sure every coach has in their scouting report that the refs keep an eye on him, so there’s some acting going on at times — but plenty are also a result of either him continuing to move or his teammates starting to take off before he’s set. Both issues can be fixed with time and some chemistry building, and only then will he stop becoming a target of scouting reports and the official’s watchful eye.
  • Another issue the Spurs had in this game was defending the Hornets on inbounds plays under the basket. At least three of them resulted in open layups. Poor defense off dead balls is one of Pop’s biggest pet peeves, so no doubt they’ll get an earful about it in tomorrow’s film session.
  • It’s kinda easy to forget Hayward is a Hornet with all the hype and attention LaMelo Ball has received, but he had a response every time the Spurs got close in the third quarter. They managed to cut the Hornets’ lead in half by the end of the quarter, but Hayward and DeRozan had quite the battle going on in otherwise offensively lacking quarter, with 12 and 10 points apiece, respectively.
  • Going into the fourth quarter down five to a Hornets team that’s 15-0 when leading at end of three quarters this season, the Spurs started on a 7-0 run to get first their first lead since first quarter, but it continued to seesaw back and fourth as both teams struggled to find any offensive consistency but always had an answer for the other. Things briefly seemed lost when the Spurs got down by 6 with 2:36 left on a questionable loose-ball foul call on DeRozan (and no challenge left), but they responded with a White three and DeRozan a three-point play to tie things back up. Rozier, who had a huge second half after shooting just 1-7 from the first half, then hit a three and two free throws sandwiched around two White free throws with 18 seconds left to give them a three-point lead. DeRozan got a quick dunk to get the Spurs within one 9 seconds left, Hayward hit his free throws, and Patty Mills missed the final three-point attempt for the loss.
  • The Spurs really have no excuse for continuing to play so “meh” at home. There’s fans in the stands now, so it’s not a dead atmosphere. If they were winning at home like they have been on the road, they’d comfortably be in the top 4 in the West. After this nine-game homestand, they will only have seven more games at home, so they need to make the most of it.

For the Hornets fans’ perspective, visit At the Hive.

The Spurs continue their homestand on Wednesday with the first part of a miniseries against the Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers. Tipoff will be at 7:30 PM CT on FSSW.