Heading out for a mini-series against the Western Conference-leading Memphis Grizzles while missing both Johnson and Vassell, expectations were always going to be low for the Spurs. On the other hand, Ja Morant was out for the Grizzlies, so there was still a chance to make a fun game out of it. The problem was the Grizzlies still have Jaren Jackson Jr, who is as much as a defensive force as I have seen at the rim since prime Dwight Howard, along with plenty of other talent that can get out in transition, and the Spurs didn’t have the defense to stop them.
Early on, the Spurs did some nice things offensively, but the Grizzlies just got open looks whenever they wanted. My feeling before the year on this team was that they would be fun even if they did not win a ton of games, and that has mostly been the case so far this season. Any time a team scores over sixty points in the first half, you wouldn’t expect them to be down double digits going into halftime, and there the Spurs sat, in a 72-61 hole.
The Spurs spent the first few minutes of the second half chipping away at the lead but then had several bad possessions in a row, leaving them right back where they started with about four minutes left in the quarter. Then, for the first time all night, the Spurs started actually contesting threes, and they had it down to five by the end of the quarter.
That proved to be a big turning point in the game as the Spurs spent much of the early part of the fourth quarter with the lead, getting up by as much as five on a Josh Richardson tip-in. Unfortunately, already without their two leading scorers and a team that has notably struggled to close games all season, they did not hold their nerve were back down by six with four minutes remaining. They didn’t have any more comeback attempts in them and eventually fell 121-113.
- Wow, this team can be so frustratingly bad in transition defense. A lot of times it seems like too many guys run back into the paint instead of stopping the ball, and that is going to create open opportunities time and again. There are a frustrating number of true fast-break points, but it is in the secondary break where they were taken apart from outside, and the Grizzlies shot over 50% from three in the first half not so much because they were hot, it’s just what happens when NBA players get that many clean looks.
- This bench unit is still really, really good. Honestly, given the fact that every starter other than Tre Jones has missed at least six games, Vassell with twelve absences and Jakob Poeltl with nine leading the way, the overall record isn’t all that bad. This is a very good team in the making if they can clean up some of the defensive problems and add a key player next season in either the draft or free agency, or both.
- I know Jeremy Sochan is something of a topic for debate, but I’m a believer. The building blocks are there, and he works hard. I think he’s an excellent player in the making, and in this game, I particularly liked his passing vision from the high post. I also liked what I saw from Malaki Branham tonight. He has a very well-rounded offensive game, which the Spurs knew when they drafted him, and it is nice to see that playing out on an NBA level already.
- The Spurs broadcast had technical difficulty early on, so Matt Bonner joined the Grizzlies broadcast during the second half. He is really good on TV.
Play of the Night:
The ever-growing Jeremy Sochan gives us a glimpse of the future as he connects from downtown:
Next Game: at Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday
On Wednesday the Spurs run this exact fixture back, as they play at Memphis at 7:00 PM before heading to the Alamodome on Friday to play the Warriors.