For a while, it looked like the San Antonio Spurs were going to overcome the lack of Jakob Poeltl, Jeremy Sochan, and Josh Richardson and break their losing streak. On the back of Devin Vassell, the Spurs had their highest-scoring half of the season. Everything was going right. Everybody was scoring – literally. But then the halftime break came and the car came apart.
A Vassell three-pointer on the first possession of the third quarter gave the Spurs an 80-60 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was at about that time that the rim shut itself and opened on the other end. A 14-2 run got the Thunder back within single digits, and while the Spurs did their best to keep them at arms-length, the 17-point halftime lead was down to eight heading into the fourth.
That snowball continued to roll in the fourth, and before you knew it, the game was tied at 98. No matter how hard they tried and how many good looks they got on offense, the scoring the Spurs saw in the first two quarters was long gone.
Behind the scoring of Jalen Williams’ (27 points), Lu Dort’s (23), and Tre Mann’s (16), the Thunder were able to get the come-from-behind win without their star point guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. On the Spurs end, they were led by Devin Vassell’s 25 points and Keldon Johnson’s 19.
The Spurs will be back in action at home on Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans – this game is also one of the five Spurs Legends bobblehead nights.
- Keita Bates-Diop might not be the best role player, but his uniqueness makes him a valuable asset. Tonight, he slid into the starting lineup in place of Jeremy Sochan but has also been in Keldon and Vassell’s spots before. He has some guard skill in a forward’s body and arms that are long enough to make Inspector Gadget jealous. He just steps into any role asked of him and contributes.
- Jalen Williams is going to be a solid pro at minimum. While he might not have had the biggest impact on the game or the box score, he passes the ever-popular eye test. A number of times early in the game, he blew past the Spurs defender to get into the paint. At 6’6”, his size and athleticism will allow him to continue to play while he learns the game at an NBA level. A look at his second half performance in this one will have you believing “solid pro” might be an understatement, as he went out and scored 20 of his 27 points in the final two frames.
- Devin Vassell may have already supplanted Keldon Johnson as the best Spur. Coming into the season, it was apparent that the Spurs would be led by the duo of Keldon and Vassell. It was likely that Keldon would be the Ricky Bobby to Vassell’s Cal Naughton, and the two would shake-and-bake their way to becoming near All-Star level wings. But tonight, you could see that Vassell’s all-around offensive game and defensive ability puts him a notch above. He was beating guys off the dribble and getting to the line, using a quick trigger to take and make three-pointers, and play solid individual and team defense.
- Keldon Johnson needs to get his mojo back. After starting the season ablaze and looking every bit the player that had Draymond tweeting that he’d be a future All-Star, his shooting has come back down to earth. He finished this one 5-22 for the floor, 4-13 from three. Since his 30-point game against Denver, he’s averaging 15.4 points on .320/.279/.750 shooting splits. Could it be team’s focusing on him more? A really bad slump? Whatever it is, the Spurs are going to need him to revert back to the player he was the first 11 games of the season.
- The great thing about young teams is they don’t know better. The bad thing about young teams is they don’t know better. The former is in reference to not knowing they shouldn’t be competing so well against the better teams in the league. The latter is in reference to how young teams tend to not know how to play a consistent four quarters and close games out. The fix to that is more experience, which each of these games provide.
- I have a feeling that Tre Mann could end up being a Lou Williams-level sixth man. Maybe it’s the fact that he had a 24-point game last season against the Spurs and was a main factor in their comeback tonight, but he’s lightning in a bottle. Would be curious to see how he does when given a larger role more consistently.