Without their best three players and on the second leg of a back to back after playing into a double OT against the Wizards, the San Antonio Spurs fought hard in Miami and nearly pulled off a shock win versus the Heat. The Spurs were playing in their penultimate game on the rodeo road trip and were trying to win their third straight but Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry were just too much for the shorthanded Silver & Black to handle.
Although, it didn’t look like that early because the Spurs got off the a quick 16-5 lead. They were playing fast and were catching the Heat sleeping. All 16 points were in the paint as the home side didn’t seem to take the shorthanded Spurs seriously. Josh Richardson who had only played one game since joining the team at the trade deadline got his second appearance in this contest. He immediately hit a three for which he is 40% for the season. San Antonio’s bench unit was continuing the scoring momentum that the starters created while also being active on defense. Miami did start to hit a few outside jumpers to cut the deficit but the road team stayed consistent with their offense which gave them a ten point first quarter lead.
The Heat seemed to start respecting their opposition in the second as they started applying more pressure on the Spurs which created turnovers and led to an 8-0 run. Devin Vassell was determined to keep the Silver & Black ahead as he went for seven straight Spur points, all coming from jumpers. Both teams were getting foul happy and the referees weren’t prepared to swallow their whistle, this led to long stretches where players were living at the line — especially Bam Adebayo who had multiple and-1’s in this quarter. Miami’s physical play from their two stars willed their team back into the lead just before the half. San Antonio trailed 61-58.
Coming out of the locker room it was the visitors that were not prepared as mental mistakes added up for the Spurs and Miami quickly had a double-digit lead. Once again, it was Vassell who was leading the comeback charge, this time scoring nine straight Spur points. Starting point-guard for the game, Tre Jones, was doing a great job at pushing the pace which caused the Heat all sort of problems as San Antonio re-took the lead. Lonnie Walker appeared at the end of the third after a quiet first half, the fourth year swingman exploded on offense to end the quarter but a mistake at the buzzer allowed the Heat to go into the final period up two; 99-97.
For the third straight quarter the home side started out hot and they quickly extended their lead to eight. The game was getting out of hand very fast with Miami piling on the scoring, taking advantage of a stagnant Spurs offense. But just like they had done all game long, the Silver & Black weren’t going away. It was Lonnie Walker continuing his strong stretch of play that was doing his all to keep his team in it. With under two minutes to play, San Antonio got it down to a four-point game after knocking down a couple of threes and transition layups. But as good teams do they put games away down the stretch and that’s what the Heat did, first it was Kyle Lowry hitting a contested three and then Bam Adebayo finishing a running layup through contact. Keita Bates-Diop nearly added a few dramatics to the end of the game after he went on a small scoring tear but time ran out on the shorthanded Spurs with the Heat escaping as 133-129 winners.
- Shorthanded but Resilient. No Dejounte, No Jakob, No Keldon and still no Romeo who has yet to make his Spurs debut, but the guys who stepped onto the court gave everything to try and win a game that they were twelve point underdogs going in. Coach Pop got great performances all around as his side scratched and clawed against one of the top seeds in the east who are at almost full strength. This game should give those rotation players a lot of confidence and if they can continue to play like they did against the Heat when the three starters come back the Spurs could be in line for a few extra wins down the stretch of the season.
- Defense. The one worrying sign that has shown itself the last few months is the lack of defensive pressure on the opposition. Teams have way too easily been able to score on the Spurs, whether that is from outside the arc or inside the paint the Silver & Black need to show more pride on that end of the floor. They gave up 153 to Washington (130 through four quarters) and then followed it up by giving up 133 to Miami. It’s great that their offense is flowing and players are looking confident on that end of the floor but trying to win shootouts every game is not the best method of winning consistently in this league.
Play of the Game
A candidate for dunk of the year by Devin Vassell. He has been showing his ability to throw down on people all year long and against Duncan Robinson he got his best poster yet.
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
This was one of the tougher games to give out SVP points too as there were many candidates that deserved to be in the top three. Two players who miss out but deserve name recongition is Lonnie Walker and Josh Richardson. Lonnie doesn’t place because he didn’t have a great first half but he exploded in the second and kept the Spurs afloat when the Heat were ready to blow them out. Then, for Richardson he was a calming presence when he was on the floor, just watch him and see how he interacts with his teammates. He is always communicating and being a real leader out there, Josh also hit some tough shots and overall played well.
3rd place (1 point): Keita Bates-Diop | 34mins, 22 points, 11 rebounds, 9/10 field goals
Keita has been one of the surprises of the season with the quality of his play. The Spurs hardly ever get bad minutes out of him and when he has been asked to spot start like against Miami he has always shown out. He is super-efficient and hit all three of the three pointers and nearly led an incredible comeback in the last minute of the game. It’s going to be hard for Coach Pop to leave KBD out of the rotation when the Spurs have their full team available.
2nd place (2 points): Tre Jones | 36mins, 19 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 9/13 field goals
Another one who got the spot start for the game was Tre, who came into the lineup for Dejounte. The best part about Tre Jones game is the way he is able to push the pace and leave defenders in his rear view mirror. He causes so many problems in transition as defenses aren’t prepared to get back fast enough to stop Tre taking it end to end or pushing the ball up with a pass. He is also an extremely underrated finisher at the rim no matter if there are shot blockers or not, plus his floater game is really strong. A career night for Tre Jones.
1st place (3 points): Devin Vassell | 27mins, 22 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 threes
Another player who had a career night was Devin Vassell who got a new career high in points. Devin was great for much of this game and was a big reason the Spurs stayed in it when Miami seemed prepared to break the game open. He would go on scoring spurts all by himself hitting tough jumpers over and over again. He also had the poster jam which will get on all the highlight pages but his overall game was fantastic and it’s a shame San Antonio couldn’t pull off the surprise win.
1st - Dejounte Murray - 93pts
2nd - Jakob Poeltl - 56pts
3rd - Derrick White- 51pts
4th - Keldon Johson - 42pts
5th - Devin Vassell- 41pts
6th - Lonnie Walker IV - 25pts
7th - Doug McDermott - 15pts
8th - Bryn Forbes - 12pts
9th - Thaddeus Young - 11pts
10th - Keita Bates-Diop - 6pts
11th - Jock Landale & Tre Jones - 4pts
12th - Josh Primo - 3pts
13th - Drew Eubanks - 2pts
14th - Devontae Cacok - 1pt
Next Game: @ Memphis on Monday
The Spurs finish the rodeo road trip against division rivals the Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant & Co have been on fire as of late and the Silver & Black will need to be at their best if they are going to finish the RRT with a victory.