You couldn’t have asked for more drama heading into a game than what the San Antonio Spurs had to experience just before their clash with the Chicago Bulls. The Spurs #12 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Joshua Primo, was shockingly waived mere hours before the tip-off to the game.
But, if you had watched the game without the knowledge of that information, you would have had no clue something had happened, as the Spurs players showed no signs of shock or deflation as they continued their high-pace, exciting style of play to beat the Bulls 129-124.
The Spurs started strong like they have done in all but one of their games this season, getting out to a 17-5 lead and hitting five threes. Ex-Spur DeMar DeRozan made sure the game was not going to get out of hand as he had a quick 8 points, which led to a timeout to recognize him surpassing 20k points, becoming only the 50th player to ever do so. The game was being played at a frantic pace with both teams happy to run the floor, and the Spurs led 36-29 after one.
San Antonio got sloppy to start the second period, which allowed the Bulls to make a bit of a run to take control of the game and the lead. The Spurs bench was not being efficient in their execution, and Chicago took advantage with easy transition points. The Silver & Black countered by bringing their starting unit back on the floor, and it was the rook Jeremy Sochan who started to dominate on both ends with his energy and effort. The Spurs went on a 10-0 run, giving them the lead back and went into the half up 62-60.
The home team came out in the second-half the same way as the started the game, shooting lights out from three. Unfortunately, a few turnovers allowed the Bulls to get right back into the game, but it was Zach Collins holding the Spurs second unit afloat with 7 straight points for the Silver & Black. The game was tied 94-94 heading into the final twelve minutes.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair, but DeRozan took control for the Bulls to give them a cushion at the start of the final period. Andre Drummond (17pts, 14rbs), who was a major problem in the paint and on the offensive glass throughout the night, was giving the young Spurs fits in the fourth. The Spurs were in need of a spark, and Keldon Johnson was the one to ignite them with 10 straight points to give them the advantage in the final stages of the contest. It was then KJ, Tre Jones and Jakob Poeltl who steered the ship to victory with clutch shots and game-sealing free-throws.
- KELDON JOHNSON. KJ has made a leap, not a step, a leap. An All-Star leap. With the added responsibility this season Johnson has certainly made it count, averaging 24 points per game while shooting over 40% from three. Tonight, he scored a season-high 33 points on 6/12 from beyond the arc.
- Ball movement = Fun Basketball. The Spurs are averaging the most assists per game this season at just under 34 per game, and this is leading to a lot of fun, high-octane basketball. They had another 37 dimes tonight, and that was a big reason why they won the game and have started the season so well. Teams just can’t handle the ball movement, which is leading to the Spurs getting high % shots.
- Sochan and Wesley. The two rookies who got minutes for the Spurs in this one were super impressive. Sochan is starting to excel in his starting role, finding himself more comfortable in each passing game. He had 13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists against the Bulls but the most impressive part of his game was his defense. Whether he was going up against a big or a guard he stayed in front, contested well and forced miss after miss. He even had a crucial charge where he did well to keep his heels out of the restricted area. Blake Wesley got his first minutes of the season, taking the back-up PG minutes from the now waived Primo. He looked confident and attacked well, creating a couple of good looks for his teammates, He ended up with 10 points and 4 assists in a great first outing for the #23 pick.
Play of the game
A lob to Sochan is starting to become an every-game occurrence for the Spurs, and I’m here for it!
Next game: vs Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday
The Spurs will play the T’Wolves for the third time in a week and will look to take the lead in the season series.