The San Antonio Spurs upset the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night, stringing together one of their most encouraging defensive outings as they snapped their five-game losing streak. Despite their struggles on that end this season, they were locked in and showed a finer attention to detail, holding their Eastern Conference competitor under 100 points.
Although there is a faction of fans hoping PATFO does everything in their power to enhance their lottery odds, winning the occasional game or two is crucial for maintaining a healthy amount of team morale. The Silver and Black are at a talent deficit in virtually every contest, and ingraining sound fundamentals won’t get in the way of their losses organically adding up.
- Instigator, agitator, provocateur, irritant, antagonizer, whichever word you prefer to characterize Jeremy Sochan, there is no disputing he is uniquely gifted at getting under the skin of his opponents and coercing them to act out of frustration. The rookie forward has aggravated the likes of Anthony Edwards, Luka Doncic, and Steven Adams, and his cheeky practices got a rise out of Markieff Morris on Tuesday night. A little innocuous smack talk devolved into unnecessary shoving, which escalated into a scuffle after a physical screen from Morris and a martial arts takedown from Sochan left them snared on the court. That short-lived skirmish energized both clubs, but Sochan got the last laugh as his veteran counterpart ended the game with just four points and three fouls on 1-of-5 shooting. Every team needs a nuisance who can muck things up physically and mentally, and Sochan seems to be the man for San Antonio.
- The Spurs were the not-so-proud owners of the worst defensive rating (119.9) in league history heading into their Tuesday night matchup, so of course, they held the second-place Nets under 100 points while leaning on their defense to snap their five-game losing streak. San Antonio made timely help-side rotations to protect the rim, communicated switches on the perimeter, sprinted back in transition, bugged opposing ball handlers, and forced a whopping 21 turnovers. The Silver and Black also closed out onto sharpshooters with purpose, holding Brooklyn to a season-low three triples as prominent marksmen Joe Harris, Patty Mills, and Yuta Watanabe went scoreless. While head coach Gregg Popovich and company certainly deserve a round of applause for their efforts, it would be dishonest not to mention they received a beneficial handicap with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sitting on the sidelines. Nevertheless, perhaps the good guys can carry this defensive momentum into their rematch with Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers this weekend.
- Keldon Johnson became the de facto go-to scorer for San Antonio after they shipped Dejounte Murray to the Hawks for a treasure trove of draft compensation this summer. While the fourth-year combo forward hasn’t been the most effective high-volume option in the NBA, his limitations as a self-creator, midrange shooter, and lateral athlete always hinted that he would be better suited operating as a complementary costar. Despite his struggles, the Spurs have allowed Keldon to experiment on the offensive end and learn from his mistakes, which is an intelligent route to pursue in a rebuilding season. Johnson has exhibited at least a hint of development in virtually every area of his game, but crunch time has been a thorn in his side all year. In an encouraging turn of events, the determined slasher put together some timely fourth-quarter heroics, scoring 14 of his career-high 36 points in the final frame as the Silver and Black outplayed Brooklyn in the clutch.