After an exciting preseason opener against the Thunder back on Monday, this felt much more like a preseason game, with the Miami Heat bringing a skeleton crew and the Spurs going with some experimental lineups. Still, there was some excitement with two best players in Victor Wembanyama and Devin Vasell both having big nights, and after a back-and-forth game, the Spurs pulled away in the fourth quarter behind their third string unit to win 120-104.
Wemby was the leading scorer for the Spurs with 23 points on 10-15 shooting (just 1-4 from three) along with 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks, and Vassell had 21 points on 6-9 shooting with all his makes coming from three. Jamal Cain led the Heat with 24 points and hit 6 threes of his own.
- If this were the regular season, the Heat would already be incurring a $100,000 fine considering they left basically their entire regular season rotation at home for a nationally televised game, with the only recognizable player being should-be Spur Duncan Robinson. (And yes, obviously they wouldn’t do that in the regular season, hence the joke.)
- Gregg Popovich said before the game that he “pretty much knows” who will be in the starting lineup on opening night, but he wants to look at different combinations in the preseason. To that extent, tonight’s starting lineup featured a lengthy group of Vassell, Cedi Osman, Jeremy, Sochan, Wembanyama, and Charles Bassey. That group gave Miami some defensive trouble early, as they started the game 0-10 from the field before coming back on a flurry of threes.
- After slow opener in OKC, the Spurs were looking to feed Vassell early, and he delivered, hitting 5-6 threes for 18 points in the first half. He and Wemby, who had 15 points of his own and did a little of everything (more on that below), appeared to have some good chemistry, especially as Wemby rightfully detected Vassell as the open man off double-teams.
- Wemby truly did show a little of everything in this one. He brought the ball up the court himself, shot threes, and hit midrange shots on turnarounds, sidesteps off both legs and facing straight up. He dunked and completed an alley-oop, and perhaps most importantly, he showed his defensive prowess with three blocks while covering both the wing and rim. He needs to work on his positioning at times, but no one is better built to recover than he is.
- This was Sochan’s first game since March 22, he it didn’t take him long to get acclimated. His presence was felt on both sides with 10 points on 4-10 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal that led to a Wemby transition dunk. He combined with Wemby and Bassey set up quite the defensive wall when they played together.
- Speaking of Bassey, he has looked great and fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered last season. He was a defensive menace with 4 blocks on the night and was there to clean up the glass on both ends. The main thing he needs to work on his being a more willing shooter — he’s capable but passed up several open threes from the top of the arc. He’s not expected to be Zach Collins in that regard, but it’s a useful tool to have in his back pocket.
- This game marked the first time twins Julian and Justin Champagnie faced each other on an NBA court. Julian drew first blood by hitting a three over his brother (his only make of the night) and giving him the stare down on their way back up the court, although Justin got revenge in the fourth quarter by blocking one of Julian’s threes. I was always on the same sports teams with my twin sister, so I can’t say I can relate to what it would feel like to go against each other.
- Summer League Dominick Barlow made a return in the fourth quarter with 11 points on 4-8 shooting while showing off that lethal midrange shot of his. Blake Wesley had an efficient 8 points, with his one miss was a contested transition lay-up (that he probably could have dropped off to Malaki Branham for an easier shot). Tre Jones showed he’s still as solid as ever whether he’s starting or coming off the bench with 8 points, 5 assists and 4 steals.
The Spurs will be home for consecutive games against Houston Rockers beginning on Moday at 7:00 PM on CW35.