With no Victor Wembanyama, the San Antonio Spurs squared off with one of the most talented teams in the Eastern Conference. Despite giving up 44-points in the first quarter, the Spurs played a respectable game without their star in a 132-119 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
They were led by Keldon Johnson, who has been on somewhat of a hot streak in December. Johnson had another double-double, putting up 28 points and 12 rebounds. He was a force to be reckoned with in the paint.
Johnson has been taking a lot of threes this season (5.5 a game) but he’s really at his best when he’s getting to the cup. All of Johnson’s 28 points came inside of the three-point arc. As the Spurs continue to develop this season, Johnson’s rim pressure will become a key part of their offense.
Zach Collins filled in for Wembanyama in the starting lineup, and had one of his better games of the season. The big man had 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. He also knocked down four deep balls.
Collins has looked much more comfortable shooting the ball since moving to the bench. As a starter Collins is shooting 27.8% from three, as a reserve that number jumps to 62.5% (on MUCH lower volume.)
Collins’ playmaking out of the high post has always been one of his best skills. Again, getting more plays that generate paint touches is a good thing for the Spurs offense. Collins is adept at hitting back cutters on these bounce passes – plus, it’s just pretty basketball!
Tre gettin' crafty out there pic.twitter.com/7q6cXa7eYy— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 20, 2023
Tre Jones had a solid game off the bench, scoring 14 points and adding 5 assists. Jones is another player who can get to the rim at will. Finishing has been up and down, but the point guard causes the defense to collapse, where he can either get to a good shot, or find an open shooter outside the paint.
It wasn’t his best shooting game, but Devin Vassell still flashed some shotmaking skills on Tuesday night. He finished with 17 points on 7-18 shooting. The wing has done a much better job of getting good looks closer to the basket. He’s one of the view Spurs with the wiggle to create space like this off the bounce.
Don’t look now, but Malaki Branham may have found his shooting stroke. The second-year guard is shooting just 31.8% from deep on the season, but in December he’s shooting 42.3% on threes. If Branham can consistently hit the three ball, his offensive upside becomes much more interesting.
The Spurs will likely get Wembanyama back for their matchup with the Bulls on Thursday, where they will look to bounce back from this two-game losing streak.
Check out full highlights from Tuesday’s contest with the Bucks below.