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Shorthanded Spurs get demolished by the Thunder, drop sixth straight

With Keldon Johnson and Tre Jones out, the Spurs simply didn’t have the talent or the depth to hang with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs’ losing streak continued with a blowout loss in Oklahoma City. A shorthanded San Antonio team finished the second quarter poorly and started the third frame even worse, which allowed the Thunder to cruise to a 123-87 win in the first official matchup between Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holgrem.

A battle between two squads that love to play at a high pace had a slow start, as both teams struggled to get transition opportunities early on. The game had a feel of general sloppiness to it in the first quarter, with a few great moments to break the monotony. The offenses couldn’t really create great looks consistently on the half-court and the three ball wasn’t falling for either side. The question was who was going to be able to wake up and set the tone first and the answer was the home team. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander took over for a few minutes and the Thunder’s defense started to be disruptive enough to get them opportunities to run. The Spurs, which in theory had a huge advantage inside, couldn’t really make it count and the absences of Tre Jones and Keldon Johnson hurt the depth when the second units checked in.

Despite playing better, OKC was only up three after the first. If the Spurs could have only cleaned up the issues with turnovers, the game could have gone differently, since their half-court defense was solid and they were getting some ugly buckets on the other end. Unfortunately, it was impossible for San Antonio to get clean execution on offense. The Thunder pressured ball handlers on inbounds and used their length on a zone that created problems for the Silver and Black. Devin Vassell went on a mini run of his own, hitting some impressive jumpers, and Wembanyama had a few good possessions, but there was not enough shot creation or ball security for the visitors, who coughed it up 12 times in the half, partially fueling an OKC offense that had 12 fastbreak points. At half, the lead was 10 for the Thunder.

With San Antonio missing their emotional leader in Johnson and their sparkplug off the bench in Jones, facing adversity was going to be hard. It was still a little surprising how quickly the Spurs crumbled in the third period. Wemby started with a couple of bad possessions, then the Thunder went back to creating turnovers. The misses started to pile up and a lot of them were ugly. There was little ball and player movement. The frustration with the officials and with themselves was palpable for the guys wearing Silver and Black. Pop tried a full-court press as a last-ditch effort to get something going, but it failed, just like everything else throughout the night. The starters stayed in well into the fourth quarter even though the game was fully out of reach, which only served to make the proceedings chippy.

It was a fully forgettable night in all possible ways for the Spurs, who are surely hoping they will have everyone available for the next game.

Game notes

  • The Spurs are now 0-2 in the in-season tournament. They are still technically alive, but their chances of advancing are looking slim.
  • Wembanyama really struggled. He inexplicably missed chippies inside, tried to do too much dribbling and had bad body language at times. He still pulled down 12 boards and had a couple of blocks, but it was a bad game for him. Chet Holgrem didn’t shine either, so those hoping for a great matchup between the two future stars were probably disappointed.
  • The team looked completely lost on offense and turned the ball over 24 times, so all eyes will be on Jeremy Sochan. This particular disaster wasn’t Sochan’s fault, though. The Thunder are a disruptive defensive team and the Spurs, with Jones and Johnson out, had no one who could drive and handle the ball to help Sochan. It’s fine to judge the Point Sochan experiment but it’s only fair to do it when the starting lineup is whole.
  • Julian Champagnie missed a good opportunity to make a case for minutes. He got the chance to start but missed shots and didn’t make an impact on the other end before padding his numbers in garbage time. He probably only got the start so that Pop could keep Cedi Osman coming off the bench, but Osman got just 14 minutes despite playing acceptably well. In hindsight, starting Osman would have probably been the better option.
  • Vassell had a good outing and probably needed more shots. It can be tricky to get him those looks because the Spurs have an equal-opportunity offense (except when it comes to Wemby) and Vassell is not the type of ball handler that can create space easily. Still, the one guy who was making mostly good decisions should have been more involved. OKC’s defense does deserve some credit for making life hard for Vassell.
  • Malaki Branham missed four three-pointers. He just seems more comfortable shooting from mid-range than beyond the arc, which was expected since he was drafted. His low release might be causing him some issues with closeouts, but he’s missed some open ones this season too. It might take him time to develop as a consistent outside threat.
  • Devonté Graham was +5 on a game the Spurs lost by 36 points, which is meaningless since single game plus/minus is not a good way to judge impact, but hilarious nonetheless. He did play well and simply by being a ball handler he helped the team immensely, which might be something the coaching staff should remember if Johnson and Jones miss more time.

Play of the night

Victor still managed to do something spectacular, even on a terrible night

Next game: vs. Kings on Friday

The Spurs will host the Kings on the third game of the in-season tournament group stage.