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The bright spots of the Spurs loss to the Bulls

The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs, one step at a time.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Chicago Bulls Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs slugged it out against an old friend and the Bulls but were not able to pull out the win. Devin Vassell led the team with 21 points while Zach Collins contributed 14 points and 9 rebounds off the bench. In contrast to today’s modern NBA, the final score fit better in the early late 1900s and early 2000s, but evergreen optimists like me could find some positive nuggets.

For example, Victor Wembanyama is back! The rookie was welcomed back to the lineup after missing one game due to ankle soreness by starting the game off with a block and a quick dime to Malaki Branham for the dunk. He only played 22 minutes, but made an impact in his short time on the floor, especially in the second half.

While the team hasn’t been able to consistently set up Wembanyama with the ball in his offensive comfort zone, he is a force of disruption on the defensive end. The young phenom has a block in every game he’s played in this season except for one. To that end, he has at least one block in 13 consecutive games, and at least 2 blocks in the last 6 games for an overall average of 3 blocks per game.

Devin Vassell was the primary source of points on Thursday night, and he made his presence felt, like soaring through the defense for this thunderous dunk.

Vassell got Collins in on the action in this nice give-and-go sequence. Collins, in particular, was active off the bench, snagging 9 rebounds and had 3 blocks of his own. While the overall game results have been mixed, Collins’s move to the bench seemingly boosts the bench while allowing Wembanyama more space down low with the starters at center.

Collins was so wide open on this play, he had time to watch the new trailer for Dune: Part Two and leave a comment on YouTube. It was most likely a constructive comment, not one of those toxic comments you are prone to see on YouTube or some comment sections on various websites because Collins seems like a nice guy.

On this play, Collins emphatically returned to sender the field goal attempt, and the ensuing sequence resulted in a Vassell and-1 bucket. The game seemed like a slog fest, but plays like this felt like a brief fast forward respite.

So much of what Victor Wembanyama does is uber interesting, including this dunk off two feet from the restricted arc. I’d pay to watch him do his taxes, and then ask him what are taxes and do I have to pay them every year? Can you deduct a credit or credit a deduction? These are important answers I need that he could address in the next H-E-B commercial.

One of the more exciting aspects of Wembanyama’s game is his play-making abilities. Here, the big man showed off his creativity and awareness of Sochan running the court alongside him. As his offensive game grows, Spurs fans will certainly be excited to see more of the offense run through him.

Malaki Branham cooked up this fast break with a rebound and then sprinkled in a sweet alley-oop to an open and willing Wembanyama for the jam. The Branham Starter Experiment (everything the Spurs do this year is an experiment or a South Texas garage band name: The Sochan PG Experiment, The Alan Parsons Project, The Wembanyama Center Experiment, etc.) yielded 7 straight games of double-digit scoring for the second-year guard.

Best guesses are that Coach Popovich wants to see more play-making growth out of Branham while the Spurs continue to tinker with the lineup to find optimal results. As long as that means more plays like this one, that can only be a good thing.

If you missed the game because you were too busy shopping for last-minute gifts, here are the full-game highlights:

Next up, the Spurs head up I-35 to take on the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, December 23, 2023.