I am sorry-not-sorry in advance if some of my fanboy leaks out in this recap. As a lifelong Spurs fan, getting to cover the 50th anniversary game played in the Alamodome in front of an NBA-record 68,323 fans is a dream come true, regardless of whether or not the Spurs would win. Let’s be honest, they’re mired in a losing season in a rebuild year with one of their best players on the bench (Devin Vassell, in the midst of recovering from a procedure aimed at relieving pain and pressure in his knee). As a fan, you need to find joy where you can. And seeing the Spurs play in front of 68,323 fans wearing Fiesta colors in the Dome is reason enough.
Sure, the Spurs were out-shot, out-rebounded, and under-turnovered by the Golden State Warriors. Sure, Warrior two-way player Anthony Lamb dropped 18 points in 24 minutes. Keldon Johnson was a negative-forty in the plus/minus stats. The Spurs played matador defense most of the game. And after the first quarter, the game was never really close. But this night was about the fans, who stuck around and cheered for their team until the final seconds of the game, regardless of the score. This night was also about recognizing that this franchise, while currently in the midst of a rebuild, has given its fans literally decades of top-tier NBA competition night in and out to go with its five championships.
Still, this is a recap, and unfortunately recaps do care about the score, so let’s dive in. The Spurs opened the game looking a little too excited to be playing in front of a packed arena, missing their first six shots and allowing Golden State to run out to a 17-4 lead. ESPN broadcasters kept talking about “sightlines” in the cavernous Alamodome, but if depth perception payed a role, it was all one-sided against the home team. The Warriors would shoot for 5 for 13 from beyond the arc in the first, while the Spurs mustered only a paltry 1 for 3.
Early scoring by Romeo Langford and Doug McDermott pulled the Spurs within four late in the first, but that was the closest the Silver and Black would ever get to challenging the lead. The Warriors shot 67% from the field in the second frame, and by halftime the display at center court read 74 to 60 in favor of the Warriors—a score that would look more at home at the end of the third quarter when the last Spurs game was played in the ‘Dome back in 2002. Defense has been a Spurs weakness all season long, and that shortcoming was on full display as the team regularly gave up wide-open cuts to the basket due to poor communication or slow rotation.
To be fair to the Spurs, the Warriors shot the lights out all game. They took care of business in a night where the atmosphere and fan support could easily have lifted a more veteran Spurs team. Instead, it was a total offensive domination by the Warriors. They denied the satisfaction of a Spurs win on this historic night, closing out the game by a final score of 144-113. By the final buzzer, the Spurs had narrowed the shooting percentage gap but could not match the three-point production of the sharp-shooting Warriors, who hit an additional 10 treys than the Spurs mustered (18 to 8). In addition, the Warriors outpaced the Spurs in points in the paint (70 to 50), 2nd chance points (19 to 9), and fast-break points (21 to 13).
Tre Jones led the Spurs with 21 points and 5 assists, and Keldon Johnson finished with 17 points. Doug McDermott (14 points), Malakai Branham (12 points) and Romeo Langford (11 points) led a balanced bench effort. For the Warriors, Jordan Poole scored 25 points to go with 6 assists, and Donte DiVincenzo added a full stat line of 22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assist and 2 steals.
The Spurs next play host to Sacramento on Sunday at the AT&T Center, where they’ll need to put out a few extra chairs in the hallways to get to 68,000.
- With the loss, the Spurs fell to 13-30 overall, maintaining their 26th spot in the league (or if you prefer, 4th in the race to to the #1 pick in the draft). Looking at it that way, the game was a win-win for everyone, as the team kept its Wembanyama hopes alive while simultaneously logging the game into the NBA history books.
- Blake Wesley logged his first NBA minutes since October. He scored 2 points and 1 rebound (along with 2 turnovers) but more importantly for his development, saw almost 7 minutes of floor time at the end of the game.
- The stars were out in the Alamodome, as former Spurs players David Robinson, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Avery Johnson were in attendance to help set the record (not to mention Steve Kerr, but he was sitting over in his usual coach’s chair on the Warriors bench).
- The previous Spurs attendance record was set in Game 2 of the 1999 NBA Finals (aka the Spurs’ first championship). In that game, 39,554 fans watched the Spurs beat the Knicks 80-67, a score that is now more likely to be a halftime score than a final one. Ah, how times have changed. Here’s the box score. It’s pretty funny reading in the context of today’s NBA game.
Play of the Game
Really, the fans are the play of the game, so:
But if you REALLY want a Spurs play, let’s go with this Keldon steal and slam, which gave the crowd something to cheer about besides their own turnout: