The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 90-87, picking up their first Summer League victory as they narrowly outlasted their division rivals. Despite letting a double-digit lead evaporate for the fourth straight game, head coach Mitch Johnson navigated his shorthanded collection of youngsters past the finish line in their Las Vegas swan song.
Malaki Branham paced the Silver and Black with 23 points, two rebounds, and two assists, while D.J. Stewart Jr. had 16 points. Blake Wesley scored nine points and recorded five dimes and two steals. Kenneth Lofton Jr. led Memphis with 27 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks, as David Roddy added 19 points and three boards.
- Blake Wesley has been the epitome of streaky during his first go-round at Summer League, which is expected for a teenager adjusting to a featured role regardless of the setting. The 19-year-old swingman was 0-of-6 from the field to begin the game but continued to flash his advantage creation skills, routinely penetrating the first tier of the defense. Head coach Mitch Johnson has charged Wesley with conducting the offense, and today was the most under control the inexperienced guard has looked in Las Vegas. He had at least three turnovers in every other outing, but he didn’t record a single giveaway in almost 30 minutes against the Grizzlies.
- You might have been curious why Darius Days wasn’t on the bench for the Spurs after missing the previous game with an unspecified illness. While it stings to disseminate the news, the 22-year-old signed a much-deserved two-way contract with the Miami Heat this morning. The six-seven combo forward averaged 13.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per game for San Antonio in three Summer League outings. He was undoubtedly going to ink a deal with an NBA team before the season began, so congratulations to Darius Days for turning himself into such an attractive asset during his brief time in Silver and Black.
- Summer League basketball is nothing like regular-season or playoff action in any way, so it should come as no surprise these youngsters hardly bore a resemblance to the big league club. The Spurs placed second in assists per game and led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio last season, but San Antonio has struggled to share the ball in Sin City. The good guys ranked 28th in assists and 24th in turnovers entering this matchup, and this isn’t necessarily a cause for concern given
- Sasha Stefanovic had four DNP-CDs across the first four Summer League games, but head coach Mitch Johnson called his number towards the end of the first quarter. The Purdue product looked poised and confident from the second he stepped onto the hardwood, delivering a gorgeous no-look over-the-shoulder hook pass that perfectly led Josh Carlton to the rim for a massive slam. Stefanovic continued dropping dimes, hurling a pin-point wraparound pocket pass, shoveling the ball to the dunker’s spot following an offensive rebound, and hitting a shooter with a live-dribble assist while toeing the baseline.
- The Grizzlies acquired Kennedy Chandler from San Antonio on draft night for a 2024 second-rounder only a couple of moments after the Spurs took the 19-year-old point guard with the 38th pick. Chandler got his first shot to make PATFO regret their decision to trade him when he faced the Silver and Black in their Summer League finale, and he was great from the tipoff. The Tennessee alumnus looked poised in the pick-and-roll, calmly got his squad into their sets, and stuffed home a ferocious one-handed slam over Robert Woodard II in transition. While Gregg Popovich could use another stable floor general following the Dejounte Murray trade, the organization already has several burgeoning ball-handler who need touches.
- Malaki Branham has been somewhat underwhelming if you only track the box score. However, the 19-year-old was always an obvious candidate to flounder within the chaotic context of Summer League. Head coach Mitch Johnson said the young guard has been borderline too unselfish and that he has begged the young guard to shoot the ball. Team-friendly qualities will probably earn Branham brownie points with Gregg Popovich, but Las Vegas is the place to take charge. The dizzying pace of these exhibitions doesn’t lend itself to success for more methodical players who thrive with structure, so fans shouldn’t be concerned about Branham figuring things out in San Antonio. The biggest positive was the Buckeye standout finding his catch-and-shoot three-point stroke during the final stretch.
- Former Mississippi State teammates Robert Woodard II and D.J. Stewart Jr. took a backseat for most of Summer League, but they were aggressive in their Las Vegas finale. Woodard made up for his lack of shooting touch with hardnosed rebounding and relentless defense. Stewart brought more of the same efficient off-ball movement and added a tinge of playmaking.Neither of these prospects makes much sense for San Antonio’s last two-way contract. With that said, they deserve another chance to carve out a role in the NBA. No one should be too shocked if teams come calling with a short-term deal for these Magnolia State natives.
- Dominick Barlow has offered promising and head-scratching moments in Las Vegas. Although he put together a couple of encouraging sequences versus the Grizzlies, Kenneth Lofton Jr. took him to school on practically every possession they shared in the post. Unfortunately for Barlow, that was most of the night as they matched up against each other from end to end. Lofton is undersized with a little extra cushion on his frame, but the second-coming of Glen “Big Baby” Davis has the feet of a samba dancer inside the paint. His physicality, countermoves, and length overwhelmed Barlow, but this was a perfect test for the 19-year-old big man. The staff will probably archive the tape from this game for Barlow to watch, and he should be motivated to hit the weight room and absorb as much information as possible during the next film session.
For the Grizzlies fans’ perspective, please visit Grizzly Bear Blues.
Fans will probably catch the San Antonio Spurs in action at their annual Silver and Black scrimmage, so keep an eye out for that announcement.