132.25 — that’s how many points the San Antonio Spurs conceded on average over 48 minutes in the four games leading up to last night’s matchup. Against the Suns they conceded 128 points in 53 minutes. These are better numbers, but it doesn’t really mean the Spurs executed much better on defense last night. They’re still a shambles on that end of the court. But you know what? That’s okay. For the moment, that is. It helps the draft odds. And the primary focus this season is probably on offensive development anyway, since that was what everyone was worried about before the season. The game last night was a good case in point there is actual development in that department.
- I don’t mean to jump on an outlier performance, but I actually don’t think it was one: Though it might be some time until Jeremy Sochan scores 30 points again, this was a performance that could be felt approaching over the past couple of weeks. Jeremy’s offensive arsenal has taken such a step forward that it’s hard to imagine it has come inside only three months. It looks more and more like the Spurs could have a future three-level scorer on their hands. Yes, you can easily read this sentence while he loads up from beyond the arch, but we’ve seen many hesitant shooters turn into gunners, haven’t we? Yes, we have. What continues to be the bright spot of the season for me is that Jeremy appears completely indifferent to looking – how can I put this? – unaesthetic: His one-armed free-throws are pretty much automatic by now, and when he posted up Chris Paul at the three-point line in the first quarter I thought I was looking at Charles Barkley in his Houston days. Other than Paolo Banchero, was there anyone in last year’s draft you would rather have on the Spurs’ roster than Jeremy? I can’t see anyone.
- Keldon Johnson, who was in a deep hole in December and early this month, is getting ground under his feet again. Over the last five games, he’s been averaging 6.2 three-point attempts, converting on 2.4 per game for a very respectable 39% clip. Last night, he even converted a pullup from beyond the arch. He also eurostepped to the basket and scored beautifully a number of times. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if three-point shooting, driving and free-throws remained his primary ways of scoring. But with further development from Jeremy inevitable, with further development from Devin Vassell very likely, and with maybe a blue chip prospect on the roster next season, maybe that’s all Keldon needs to be on offense. A focus on defensive development wouldn’t be the worst thing for him, I guess.
- Tre Jones hasn’t been shooting as well as Keldon as of late, and has therefore received overly harsh criticism from some Spurs fans who should maybe work on their expectation management. With Dejounte Murray around all last season, and Derrick White for more than half, Tre had little opportunity to practice what is being asked of him this season – to be the main ballhandler and facilitator on an NBA team. He’s been doing admirably. Yes, he’s not a scoring machine, and he never will be. Neither is his brother Tyus. But if Tre can be what his brother is (Tyus should be in the SMOTY discussion, in my view), a backup point guard with maximum trustworthiness, Tre will be a success story himself.
- From an emotional perspective, last night’s game was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a fan this season, despite the loss in overtime. I just didn’t see the late surge coming, and I couldn’t help cheering loudly as I watched. It was crunchtime basketball at its very best. In the end, we had to learn that 37-year-old Chris Paul can still take over a game at will.