In a game where the short-handed Spurs never led, they took the best team in the East to overtime before losing at the buzzer to a Ben Simmons tip-in.
The Spurs entered their tenth last game of the season at 31-31 for tenth best in the West. But the Spurs started their final stretch of the season shorthanded as we found out that, Dejounte, DeMar and Jakob were all out for rest purposes on the front end of a back to back. Tre Jones (First Career Start), Drew Eubanks and Rudy Gay all started for the Silver & Black. Philly had their full strength lineup at their disposal.
Considering all that, it’s no surprise that the Spurs struggled early and Philadelphia took full advantage of San Antonio’s youth as MVP candidate Joel Embiid had 8 of his teams 11 early points. On the other end of the floor the Spurs failed to score consistently with them only putting up 5 points on the board in the first 4 minutes. Another Embiid scoring run had the Spurs scared of a blowout early. Dieng came into his 9th game as a Spur and he started off strong hitting a three early. But once again the Spurs couldn’t find consistency as Seth Curry hit back to back three pointers to move the lead to double figures. Lonnie Walker and the Spurs did find some form late in the term as they finished on a 8-1 run to trim the deficit to 10 by the quarters buzzer.
The second started with both teams trading buckets as Keldon Johnson carried a lot of the scoring and playmaking load for the young Spurs tonight. He even had a lovely wrap around assist to Drew Eubanks for a dunk! Although Philly had a counter to everything as 4 straight extended their lead to 12 late in the 2nd. Rudy Gay one of the more experienced players the Spurs had tonight had a sequence of a 3 and a dunk to move the lead back to single digits. SkyWalker put on a show for the fans in this quarter after a highlight AND-1 dunk on former Spur Danny Green, this pushed the San Antonio run to 8 straight. For a few seconds Lonnie had the lead down to 3 before Seth Curry countered with a 3 of his own to help Philly to a 61-52 lead heading into the break.
It seemed as if Pop gave some pretty strong instructions at the half as the Spurs came out trying to push the pace early; very reminiscent of what Boston did to us in the second half of their comeback win Friday. Although the change of pace was only so good as the Spurs were still constantly making defensively errors. Back to back threes from the 76ers strengthened their hold on the game. Then a crazy couple of minutes for shooting as Gorgui Dieng and Danny Green hit 4 threes combined; 2 each, as they went back and forth at each other. Patty Mills even joined the party as he hit one of his own to cut the lead back to 9.
Going into the final term the Sixers had a 89-79 lead. The first play of the quarter wasn’t encouraging for the home team as they allowed two offensive rebounds and then a huge Dwight Howard dunk. Luka Samanic who got some playing time tonight then tried to outdo Dwight with a helluva jam of his own. The Spurs were battling and clawing their way back and they had a glimmer of hope after a goaltending call on Dwight had the Spurs within 4. The teams then went bucket for bucket midway through the final period before a Tre Jones floater made it a one possession game. A few moments later a sequence of three 3’s for both teams as Rudy’s three was countered by a Seth 3 which was then countered by a KJ three and we had a tie game under a minute to play. Embiid then scored a two before big body Keldon got an offensive rebound off a miss and put it back to tie the ballgame up. Patty Mills had a chance for the Spurs to take their first lead of the game with 26 seconds left but his shot got blocked before Embiid missed a turnaround jumper at the buzzer (Very similar to Jayson Tatum’s miss at the end of the 4th last game) to send the Spurs to their second straight overtime game.
Overtime saw both teams show off their defensive talents as the Spurs and the Sixers found it hard to score. KJ had a big AND-1 for San Antonio but he missed the free throw to give the Spurs their first lead of the game. The final few minutes of the extra period saw tons of missed shots and turnovers as the defense really ramped up. Embiid hit a post 2 to give him his 33rd and 34th points of the game but Rudy answered with a layup to tie the game with 19 seconds to play. Just like Friday’s game the Spurs just couldn’t get it done in overtime as after an Embiid missed jumper, Ben Simmons jumped highest to tip in the shot at the buzzer for only his second field goal of the game to give the Philadelphia 76ers the win.
- This was terrific effort by the shorthanded Spurs tonight. Every guy who played should be very happy with the effort and energy they had. They were going against the number 1 seed in the East, a real championship contender who had everybody available and the Spurs who had 4 of 5 starters out took them to overtime and only lost at the very last millisecond. This team has heart; I know everybody knows that already but I think it had to be said again. LOVE THIS TEAM!
- Drew Eubanks vs Gorgui Dieng. The backup big role is really interesting, after LMA left, the Spurs brought in newly released Grizzly Dieng to play that role but he got Injured in his first game and Eubanks took over. In that time Eubanks has been terrific, playing the best ball of his career, the problem though is that even after Dieng came back he hadn’t been given an opportunity to win that role untill tonight. With Jakob resting both Dieng and Eubanks got to play heavy minutes. And even with Eubanks starting, Dieng well and truly outplayed him. Gorgui had 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and hit 3 of 4 from downtown. It’s going to be curious for sure to see if this performance has earned Dieng the chance to be the backup big the rest of the way this season. Don’t worry though, we won’t have to wait too long to find out the answer as the Spurs play again tomorrow and Jakob should be back, so we’ll see who Pop goes with to play the minutes when Poeltl sits.
- My SVP (Spurs Valuable Player) for tonight’s games goes to…. Keldon Johnson. KJ was the only starter who played tonight and he showed up in a big way. Carrying the offensive load while also playing strong on defense. Keldon had 19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and only committed two turnovers even though he had the ball in his hands lots. It’s going to be hard for KJ to be this productive when the Spurs are at full strength but it’s nice to see the flashes of what he can be when he is a number 1 or 2 option.
Next game: Vs the Jazz on Monday
The second halves of back to backs haven’t been San Antonio’s strong point this season but they will be aided by the fact that DJ, DeMar and Jakob rested against the Sixers while the Jazz will still be without Mitchell and Conley. Another must win for the Spurs as they look to secure a place in the play-in ASAP.