The shorthanded and Covid-decimated San Antonio Spurs fought hard for 48 minutes in an expected loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Spurs in fact won two of the four quarters but lost the opening one by 20-points and could never recover.
With six players out in health and safety protocols, plus Zach Collins still recovering from ankle surgery, Josh Primo got the first start of his career, and he opened the game scoring the Spurs’ first bucket with a nice floater in the paint. On the other side of the floor, the Silver & Black weren’t catching any breaks, with Jakob Poeltl falling for two Joel Embiid pump fakes in the opening two minutes to send the Austrian to the bench in foul trouble. Pop had obviously instructed his guys to blitz and double Embiid on his post touches but their effort was futile, as Embiid made the right decision nearly every time. On top of that, the road team couldn’t stop fouling the All-NBA big, sending him to the line multiple times. The bench came in and were a bit erratic, which allowed the Sixers to capitalize with points off turnovers and loose balls.
Being down 20 after one was not ideal for a team already shorthanded and lacking belief, but the group that came onto the floor to start the second period upped their intensity, which led to a 15-4 run. The Spurs kept it right around the 15-point margin for most of the quarter. Lonnie Walker IV, who was playing for the first time since he came back from H&S protocols, was countering everything the Sixers were doing to keep his team afloat. Still, Embiid was feasting in the post, and San Antonio couldn’t find a way to slow him down. When they doubled strong he would make the right read, when they doubled weak he would shoot over the top and when they played him one on one, he would attack the rim with force. It was a better quarter than the first but the road team still found themselves down 71-53 at the half.
Just like the start of the second quarter, the Spurs came out strong in the third, scoring eight of the first ten points and putting the pressure on the home team. Dejounte Murray, who was expected to have to do it all if the Spurs were going to have a shot to win, started to takeover in the second half. He hit two threes and a crafty reverse layup in a span of a few possessions to get to 20-points early in the half. Unfortunately, the Silver and Black still hadn’t found an answer to Embiid, and it felt like the Sixers could get a basket whenever they felt like it. Still, it was another quarter that San Antonio won, even if it was by a margin of just one point.
Josh Primo started the fourth as the point guard on the floor for the Spurs. He had a nice showing in these few minutes, showcasing his scoring and playmaking abilities while also causing a few turnovers on the other end. San Antonio tried hard to cut it to single digits, but after a three from old friend Danny Green with five minutes to play, Pop called timeout and emptied the bench. Anthony Lamb, Jaylen Morris & Devontae Cacok entered the game for the first time on the night. The unit worked hard but had little chemistry, as would be expected of a bunch of guys who have played zero minutes with each other. The Spurs finished with 100 points but lost by 19 in their only meeting against the Sixers in Philly this season.
- Washington State Matchup. Dejounte Murray went up against one-year college teammate Matisse Thybulle in Friday’s game. Thybulle, known as a lockdown defender, was put on Murray for the majority of the minutes they shared on the floor. This was no surprise considering the Spurs didn’t have any other true offensive threat on the court. Thybulle definitely had the advantage in the first quarter, forcing DJ into uncharacteristic turnovers, but from that point on Murray did pretty well against the pressurized defense of Mattise. Even when Philly threw double teams at him, Dejounte handled it all pretty well.
- Josh Primo, History Maker. Primo became the youngest player in Spurs history to start a game for the Silver & Black. Another spectacular accomplishment from the young man. Bryn Forbes also got his first start of the season.
- Moving Forward. Over the next week or so the Spurs are going to experience nights like these, especially considering the opposition they will come up against. Doug McDermott won’t likely be out much longer, but San Antonio shouldn’t expect the other five (Vassell, Keldon, White, Thad, Tre) back anytime soon, as they all went into protocols within the last two days. The Spurs could get Zach Collins back at any time, as Pop said he is all but ready to go, but even if he becomes available, Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl are going to have to be huge for the Silver and Black to pick up any wins until they can get the rest of the cavalry back.
Play of the Game
Growing before our eyes.
that Primo dish to Jak pic.twitter.com/l61DieK5Qq— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 8, 2022
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
3rd place (1 point): Josh Primo | 25 mins, 9 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
You could give this spot to Lonnie who had 13 points on decent efficiency, but given the circumstances and experience level, I thought Primo played slightly better. Josh was asked to do different things in this contest, as he switched between secondary playmaker, cutter, corner shooter and at times a primary ball-handler. He did well in all the roles he played, and never tried to do too much, playing within himself and with composure for a guy who just turned 19 years old.
2nd place (2 points): Jakob Poeltl | 30 mins, 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3/4 free throws, +4
Jakob had the tall task of handling Joel Embiid in this game, and after the first two minutes when he picked up two fouls and was sent to the bench, it looked like Jak would not end up having a good game. But he came back and played smarter and harder and, even though he didn’t stop Embiid, he definitely made it tough on him. Offensively he made Joel work and even broke his ankles on a spin move (Embiid’s knee buckled, so it could have been a slip, but we’ll take it). He had 13 points in the second quarter alone, and on the night was a +4, which was the best on the team with only one other player having a + game. (10-day contract Tyler Johnson who had a +2 in his 12 minutes).
1st place (3 points): Dejounte Murray | 36 mins, 27 points. 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals
Not a surprise that the top two in SVP for the game are the two regular starters when everyone is healthy. Dejounte had a rough first quarter but on the other three he played close to perfection. The Spurs needed him too, or they would have lost by a much, much worse margin. Dejounte hit 3/6 threes as his development as a shooter continues to grow, and he was quite efficient in his overall shooting, considering the defensive attention he got and the amount the Spurs needed him to do. The only negative was the six turnovers, but when you are the complete focus for a defense this can happen every now and again. Dejounte is going to have to be near perfect for the Spurs to stand a chance in the next few outings.
1st - Dejounte Murray - 55pts
2nd - Derrick White - 40pts
3rd - Devin Vassell & Jakob Poeltl - 27pts
4th - Keldon Johnson - 23pts
5th - Lonnie Walker IV - 13pts
6th - Bryn Forbes - 11pts
7th - Thaddeus Young & Doug McDermott - 9pts
8th - Keita Bates-Diop - 5pts
9th - Jock Landale & Josh Primo - 3pts
10th - Drew Eubanks - 2pts
11th - Tre Jones - 1pt
Next Game: @ Nets on Sunday
The Spurs continue their road trip by heading to the state of New York for back-to-back games. First off will be the Brooklyn Nets, who will not have Kyrie Irving as he is only eligible to play road game, but will have possibly the most dangerous offensive duo in the league with Kevin Durant and old division foe, James Harden.