The San Antonio Spurs came into their matchup with the Houston Rockets tied for a franchise-high 16 losses in a row. Despite an improved defensive effort, the Spurs were ice cold shooting the ball on their way to a 93-82 loss on the road. The 2023-24 squad now holds the franchise’s longest losing streak at 17-games.
“They played their asses off,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said in a post game press conference. “They played great, you just got to make a shot in the NBA.”
The Spurs shot just 5-41 (12.2%) from deep in the loss. It wasn’t for a lack of open looks, San Antonio just couldn’t get the ball to go in. The team shot just 35.6% from the field overall.
“What’s really amazing about it is if you go 5-41, that’s a lot of transition defense you’re going to be in – they (Houston) got 10 fast break points,” Popovich said. “They did a hell of a job defensively in that regard, I’m really proud of them. I just feel badly (for them) because it’s hard to know what to do when you’re missing that many shots.”
Houston didn’t fair much better shooting the ball. They finished the game hitting 12 of their 39 threes (30.8%) and shot just 34.4% from the field. In the first quarter it was the Spurs who were outpacing them, helped by the play of Cedi Osman and Doug McDermott off the bench. The defense was off to an incredible start, holding Houston to just 23% shooting in the first quarter. Osman was aggressive getting to the basket, which was much needed while the team struggled to shoot the ball. He finished with 10 points.
Victor Wembanyama had a good game, and was particularly impactful on the defensive end, where he slowed down Alperen Sengun. He stuffed the big man at the rim a few times, despite Sengun pushing him under the basket in the low post. Wembanyama finished the game with 15 points, 18 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Down just four points going into the third quarter, the Spurs were on high alert for another poor second half of basketball. They responded in the third by attacking the basket and playing well on the defensive end. Wembanyama swung things in the Spurs direction with a monster slam over Sengun.
Houston turned it on in the fourth quarter, leaving San Antonio in the dust as they fought to stay in the game. The Rockets hit four of their twelve threes in the fourth, and were led by Tari Eason and Fred VanVleet. Eason finished the game with a team-high 18 points off the bench, VanVleet had 16 points on 4-11 shooting from three.
Like Popovich said, it’s hard to overcome such poor shooting in the NBA. When a team holds another to under 93 points, that’s typically a pretty successful night. However, nothing has been typical nor easy for the Spurs on this 17-game skid. They’ll play back-to-back games against the NBA Cup winning Los Angeles Lakers next, where they will hope to catch them on an In-Season Tournament championship hangover.
- The Spurs once again played Wembanyama at the five with four perimeter players around him. It’s not been the smoothest offensive unit so far, as the spacing isn’t nearly good enough around Wemby to create easy driving lanes. Teams still leave Jeremy Sochan wide open from three, leaving less space for Wembanyama in the paint. Devin Vassell and Sochan both struggled to create opportunities for themselves in the half court. Meanwhile Tre Jones looked darn good off the bench. His defense was stellar, and he made some great reads in the half court. It’s clear the Spurs believe in Jones as the backup point guard long term, but they need his ball-handling, rim pressure and vision to make the offense work right now.
- Aside from the poor shooting, the little things killed San Antonio on Monday. The Spurs went 15-22 from the free throw line, leaving a lot of points at the stripe in the second half. Once again unforced turnovers killed offensive possessions. The Spurs coughed it up 17 times, and a lot of those were on bad passes that were not forced by good defense. They allowed Houston to grab 15 offensive rebounds. That’s not as bad as the 24 they gave up to Chicago, but still not a good metric by any means. It was clear that Houston was the more physical and aggressive team.
- Keldon Johnson is good at getting to the basket, and even found some success against Houston. Yet he continues to chuck shots from deep. Johnson went 3-5 on his shots within the arc, and 0-9 from range. He’s improving as a three-point shooter, but not to the point where he can abandon his inside game. The Spurs rely on him to put pressure on the rim. Their offense will work much better if he continues to do so.
Play of the Game
One more look at that Wembanayama poster for your viewing pleasure.
Up Next: Wednesday vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Silver and Black will play two home games agains the NBA Cup winning Lakers this week. We will see how sharp Los Angeles is after spending the week in Las Vegas. The last time San Antonio played a two-game series with a Western Conference contender, it worked out in the favor of the Spurs as they won two-straight in Phoenix. It will be Wembanyama’s first game against the legendary franchise.