It seems that it doesn’t matter if the Spurs play in the USA, Mexico or on the moon, their fourth-quarter woes follow them wherever they go. This time in Mexico City for their showcase game against the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs went into the final frame up 4 after controlling the majority of the contest, but momentum switched quickly and before they knew it they were down 10 and emptying their bench on their way to a 111-101 loss.
The Spurs did get Jakob Poeltl back from injury in this one. After missing 7 games with a bone bruise in his knee the Austrian big man made his return to the lineup, albeit on a 20-minute time restriction.
The Spurs got off to another slow start something which has become commonplace for the group this season, with the Heat settling into the higher altitude quicker than the younger Spurs. Keldon Johnson did get off to a good start by attacking the rim and showing off his physicality to get to the charity stripe. The Spurs bench provided a nice jolt to the offense which allowed the Silver & Black to go on a 19-0 run to take command of the game.
To start the second both teams were happy to let the ball fly from deep but not many were finding the bottom of the bucket. The shots may have been off in this period but the passing was exquisite with both sets of players showing off a few nifty bounce passes, including one each from Jimmy Butler and Jeremy Sochan. The Spurs offense did start to find a flow towards the end of the half as they were getting their shots in rhythm. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to take advantage too much on the scoreboard because Butler was fighting back for the Heat, making tough shots and getting to the line. The Silver & Black did still lead at the end of the half; 55-52.
After a 35-minute half-time break due to a power outage in the arena in Mexico the Spurs came out on the front foot, running in transition for quick easy points to keep a comfortable hold of their lead. A good sequence for the Heat happened mid-way through the third quarter to keep them within a small distance of the Spurs, after two wide-open missed threes by the Silver & Black, Tyler Herro who has been red-hot lately went on a quick 5-0 run to swing the momentum. The Spurs hit right back, this time with their two rookies Sochan and Malaki Branham making plays in the open court. Heading into the final 12 minutes the home team away from home led 84-80 over Miami.
You knew it was going to be a rough quarter for the Spurs early on as Duncan Robinson who has had a dreadful season so far hit a 4-point play to give the Heat their first lead of the second half. Things just went from bad to worse for the Silver & Black as they started to falter on both ends. Point-blank shots were falling out and their communication on defense was suspect at best. The Spurs quickly got down double-digits and from that point on they couldn’t do any better than trading buckets with Miami. After having a 4-point lead heading into the quarter, just 9 minutes later they were down 11, and Coach Pop was waving the white flag as he emptied his bench.
- Fourth Quarter Failures. Far too often this season the Spurs have played a great three quarters to give them a real shot of winning, before completely collapsing in the fourth. Yes, they are a young team, but some of the failures don’t just come from them being young and inexperienced. The lack of intensity they sometimes show in close games is unexplainable and against the Heat they were simply just out-hustled by Miami’s veterans in the final frame. It would be understandable if they were outsmarted in the fourth, but being out-hustled by a much older team is just not acceptable.
- Malaki Branham Breakout? Malaki had probably his best game as a Spur as he showcased what made the Spurs pick him with the 20th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He had 12 points on 4/5 shooting including hitting 3 threes, something which he had struggled to do efficiently so far this season. Hopefully this is the start of a more confident and aggressive Malaki, someone who knows he belongs in the NBA.
- Sochan’s playmaking development! Sochan may not have scored much in this contest, but what was most impressive was his playmaking chops. Coming out of the draft one area of strength on offense for Jeremy was his passing, and tonight he showcased that at the highest level. He had a few passes that made me sit up in my seat as he put buckets on a silver platter for his teammates. The more he has the ball in his hands the better for not only his development but for the success of this team short and long term.
Play of the night
Next game: @ Rockets on Monday
The Spurs will start next week in Houston when they take on the Houston Rockets in the second meeting this season between the Texas Rivals. In the previous contest in San Antonio the Spurs got the win that kickstarted their previous three-game winning streak.