Before tonight’s game versus the Golden State Warriors, Coach Greg Popovich announced that the Spurs would be without their starting point guard, Tre Jones, due to illness. He then somewhat surprisingly announced that rookie forward Jeremy Sochan would start at the point in his stead. By the end of the night, Jones and his team-leading 6.6 assists per game would be sorely missed.
Lest we bury the lead, the Spurs lost for a variety of reasons. Shooting (a season low) 36% from the floor against a team like the Warriors will likely cost your team the win in most circumstances anyway. Add in 18 turnovers and (a season low) 18 assists, and you’re in for a long night. But one thing was clear - at this stage in their career, Sochan and little-used backup guard Jordan Hall are not the answer at point. It makes one wonder if the long-rumored Westbrook-to-the-Spurs trade suddenly looks a little more palatable for the Silver and Black. No one wants to take away from the young core’s development time, but nights like this, it wouldn’t hurt to have a backup point guard with some veteran experience on the bench.
Right away in the first quarter, it became very clear that this was not the same team without Jones at the helm. The offense stagnated for long periods of time right out of the gate, with the Warriors jumping out to a quick 14-4 lead in the first four minutes. Rough shooting plagued the Spurs throughout, and they allowed Warriors guard Jordan Poole to pop off for 14 first-quarter points. While the Spurs did take their first (and only) lead of the game late in the first on a McDermott three, by the end of the period the Warriors had regained control and lead 33-26.
The Spurs three-point shooting woes continued into the second frame. Midway through the quarter, they were shooting 3/19 from the arc compared to 9/17 for the Warriors. Needless to say that was...not good. Bates-Diop ended the half as the Spurs’ leading scorer with 7 points. Also...not good. Considering all that went wrong for the Spurs, it felt a little lucky that they headed into the locker room down by “only” 16, trailing 45 to 61.
This would be a short-lived feeling, as almost immediately the Warriors jumped all over the Spurs in the third. Jakob Poeltl had maybe the roughest stretch for a Spurs player in the early going, picking up two fouls (including on a Stephen Curry three-point try) and two turnovers in 90 seconds. By the time Pop called his first time out of the period at the 9:51 mark, the Warriors lead had ballooned to 29, up 74 to 45. The Spurs never got closer than 22 points down from there, and never really threatened the Warriors.
By the end of the game, the Spurs would shoot 10 for 40 (25%) from the three-point line, versus the Warriors’ blistering 23 of 45 (51%). Their 18 turnovers led to 27 Warrior points, and they also beat the Spurs 19-4 on fast-break points. It was an offensive clinic on a night the Spurs couldn’t muster any of their own.
This one was more or less over by the second period, and with Portland on tap tomorrow night, Pop was able to give his starters major stretches of rest. Unfortunately, the bench wasn’t any hotter: Jason Richardson scored 10 points on 3/12 shooting and Isaiah Roby managed 9 on a meager 3/9 shooting. Charles Bassey was a flickering candle of brightness in the night, scoring 6 points (3/5 from the floor), 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 24 minutes.
- Jeremy Sochan finished the night 5/13 from the field, with 12 points, seven rebounds and (most concerning) zero assists, to go with 3 turnovers and a team-worst plus/minus rating of -34. I think we can say his career as a point-forward isn’t off to the best start. We’ll see if Pop continues to use him as a backup in that role.
- Spurs stalwarts Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell finished a combined 8/26 from the floor. It didn’t seem to this viewer that their poor performance was a Warriors defensive focus as much as the Spurs’ inability to create easy shots without a capable, experienced point guard running the offense.
- Jordan Poole finished just off his career best mark with a team-high 36 points (5/10 from the three) on the night the Warriors debuted his first bobblehead doll giveaway. Undoubtedly that explained his high scoring effort, and not the Spurs’ porous defense tonight.
- Let’s say it one more time: This is the year Tre Jones proves his value to the league. Also of interest - with Westbrook-to-the-Spurs not a thing as of yet, do the Spurs make some sort of move to bring in a veteran guard after tonight? If so, who do they cut/trade to do so? Feel free to discuss in the comments...
Play of the Game:
This one’s easy. Goes to Coach Pop for the best deflection of the night, turning the cameras onto longtime frenemy Steve Kerr.