After last week’s annihilation at the hands of his former team, Drew Eubanks swore this game between the Spurs and Trail Blazers would be different, and it was ... for one quarter. After a lethargic start spotted Portland a 10-0 lead, the Spurs woke up and never looked back. They outscored the Blazers by 15 points to a take five-point lead into the second quarter, won that round 43-20, and the second half was nothing more than extended garbage time.
Even though it was a scheduled win against a tanking team, that didn’t mean it couldn’t be fun, and the Spurs sure did make it enjoyable. After a heart-breaking loss two nights ago, Keldon Johnson went from lying on the floor looking dejected back to his usual, chipper self because that’s what good players do: put previous games behind them and bounce back. He was all over the place for a very efficient 21 points on 5-8 shooting from three for his fifth straight game of scoring 20 points or more — all while smiling the whole time.
Devin Vassell had his best outing in a couple of weeks with 22 points on 9-15 shooting, 4-8 from three, and was assertive early to get the Spurs offense off the ground. Lonnie Walker may have “only” hit 5 shots for 12 points, but all of his shots from inside the arc went in, and they were all crazy, wild, acrobatic dunks or layups around defenders that showed just how high Skywalker can fly. Everyone who was available played and contributed to a teamwide effort.
In the end, while it technically was the different outcome Eubanks promised: just a 19-point win instead of 37 thanks to some lethargic defense in garbage time, it was one of the most fun games of the season in terms of highlight-reel plays and just generally watching the guys have a good time out on the floor. With each win they get closer to making the play-in, and regardless of what that does to their draft position, it’s what the players want that matters, and that’s what’s most important.
- With Dejounte Murray out with an upper respiratory illness (“non-COVID related”, because now you have to clarify that every time you cough), Tre Jones replaced him as the starting point guard and didn’t disappoint with 9 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds while setting up his hot teammates. As the only true point guard available, when he sat the Spurs just played point guard by committee, which had its own level of entertainment since it forced the players on the court to play team ball (even more than they already were, at least). It was almost reminiscent of when Manu Ginobili would be the de facto point guard guard off the bench back in the day.
- Even though his outside shot still needs some work, Josh Primo is looking more confident with each passing game. He took most of threes that were available to him, hitting of 2-6, but it was what he did inside the arc that was all the more impressive. He drove with confidence, looked for his teammates on his way to 4 assists, and even let some of that Tim Duncan-esque stoic-ness slip off after a huge tomahawk dunk one a baseline drive for the and-one. Considering he is still just barely 19 and began the season listed at 6-6, I hope he still has some growing and can add another inch or two to his frame. His skill set seems to be leaning more towards wing/forward than guard at this point, and that is the Spurs biggest area of need going forward.
- I love Josh Richardson’s contagious energy and hustle. The Spurs lost their emotional leader when Patty Mills left in the offseason, and while someone like Johnson brings a level of fun and energy to the team, he’s not quite the leader Patty was. Richardson is, and while there will be questions about his future with the squad going forward — he has another year left on his contract but could be a good trade chip — I’ve gone from being indifferent about him (more because I was upset to see Derrick White go) to thrilled to have him on the Spurs, and with every passing game I’m hoping to see him return to San Antonio next season.