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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Grizzlies

San Antonio makes a tough loss easier to swallow with another applaudable end-to-end effort.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The shorthanded San Antonio Spurs dropped an overtime nail-biter to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night in their first matchup against their division rival this season. Despite tumbling into an early 14-point hole only minutes into the first quarter, they quickly bounced back to make things a little more competitive in the second half.

Jakob Poeltl and Devin Vassell scored 22 points apiece as every member of the starting lineup scored in double figures. Tre Jones notched his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 assists. Jeremy Sochan and Charles Bassey also provided the Silver and Black with much-needed energy as their hustle helped close the gap.

After surprising the NBA with a 5-2 start, San Antonio has lost five games in a row and plunged back into draft lottery territory. Gregg Popovich and the youngest roster in franchise history continued performing like a fringe playoff team in their loss to Memphis, and time is still on their side as they look to course correct before an extended road trip.


  • Charles Bassey flashed fascinating two-way potential in his first couple of outings with San Antonio, and he continued showcasing his talent on Wednesday. Despite signing a two-way contract with the Spurs less than three weeks ago and attending training camp with their G League affiliate, he received the call over Gorgui Dieng as the first big off the bench with Zach Collins out of commission. The Silver and Black trailed by double digits when Bassey checked into the contest near the end of the opening frame, but they cut the lead to a single point when the second-year center returned to the sidelines. His relentless energy was infectious as he snagged offensive boards, sprinted the floor in transition, protected the rim, corralled loose balls, and found his teammates with timely passes. Bassey also had a handful of significant contributions in the fourth quarter, notching a pair of steals, getting to the free-throw line, and turning the tide with a momentous slam. Get used to seeing the six-nine bruiser. He has seemingly carved out a role under head coach Gregg Popovich, and that probably won’t change as long as Collins is on the mend.
  • There is simply no letup from these young Spurs. No matter how far they fall behind, their effort remains consistent. Memphis rattled off several runs to build multiple ten-point cushions, but the good guys erased the deficit each time the score seemed like it might get out of hand. Though San Antonio is on a five-game losing streak, their will to win has been among their most praiseworthy qualities, and it has kept them within striking distance of opponents that are out of their league on paper. After overcoming tremendous performances from Ja Morant and Desmond Bane in regulation, the Spurs looked cooked in the opening moments of overtime as their divisional foe forged ahead by nine points with 1:58 left in the extra period. Yet as the Grizzlies slipped into a false sense of security, San Antonio took their intensity to another level. The basketball gods rewarded them for their efforts. And while a clock malfunction sent the visitors into panic mode, the Silver and Black held their composure and played until the officials sounded whistles. Suddenly, Gregg Popovich and company found themselves down by two with a chance to pull off an upset. Devin Vassell had an excellent opportunity from beyond the arc but left his shot short. Losses are never fun, but they are a lot more tolerable when they’re this competitive.
  • Hear me out before you roll your eyes. Beautiful basketball has returned in the 2-1-0. This rendition of the Spurs may not possess the star power, shooting efficiency, or creativity of their championship predecessors, but they share a similar affinity for sharing the ball. San Antonio is one of six teams making more than 300 passes per game in the NBA, and they have dished out a league-best 29.9 assists per game through the first tenth of the regular season. They have manufactured 70.7% of their field goals via assists and have six players averaging at least three dimes, both of which are the most in the association. Head coach Gregg Popovich continued to spread touches equitably among his youngsters against the Grizzlies, and they responded with smooth player movement, selfless decision-making, and prompt deliveries. Although turnovers were a problem entering this matchup, the Silver and Black took much better care of the rock, negating a usually devastating transition attack from Memphis. San Antonio doesn’t have a perfect offense by any means, but it has sure been delightful.