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Spurs hold off the Blazers in the first of two consecutive meetings

Wemby stuffed the stat sheet to help San Antonio snap a five-game losing streak.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Following a hard-fought loss in Utah, the Spurs snapped a five-game losing streak in an entertaining match against Portland on Thursday night.

San Antonio dominated right after tip-off. With DeAndre Ayton sidelined, the Blazers were missing their defensive anchor, allowing Wemby to score seven quick points in just the first few minutes of the game. Within what seemed like seconds, the Spurs jumped out to a double-digit lead and continued to take advantage of Portland’s sloppy play. The Blazers turned the ball over constantly, giving San Antonio easy transition opportunities that they capitalized on, which resulted in an 18-0 run for the visiting team.

Of course, given that it’s the Spurs, they naturally let their opposition back in the game.

Up by 25, San Antonio went cold at both ends, resulting in a quick 21-7 run by Portland. The Blazers started to get into their offensive sets with more precision and focus while the Spurs looked disjointed, which was exacerbated by the fact that Wemby sat for most of that stretch.

Still, a lot of the time, those big momentum swings are just a natural part of a variance-filled sport rather than a firm indictment of a team’s play. This proved to be the case as both teams settled in during the second half and traded buckets evenly. The Blazers cut San Antonio’s lead down to single digits multiple times, and just when Spurs fans started to say “ah shoot, here we go again,” Wemby came and saved the day.

After the rookie checked back in to start the fourth, San Antonio suddenly built another 20-point lead that essentially sealed the game. Wemby’s length disrupted every drive that the Blazers attempted, and on the other end, the Spurs suddenly realized that they had a 7’4” alien on their side and took advantage by feeding him some easy looks at the basket. San Antonio also continued playing some 1-2-2 zone that confused Portland at times, and the Spurs managed to hold on for the double-digit victory — even though Wemby needed to check back in with a minute left to guarantee the win.

Game notes

  • This might have been Wemby’s most impressive and well-rounded game played to date. The French phenom finished his night having racked up 30 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 7(!!!) blocks on 9-14 from the field, 2-4 from deep, and a perfect 10-10 from the line. He was everywhere on the court and made an impact on every play, and it’s not surprising to see him finish with a game-high +18. According to NBA stats, he’s the second rookie in league history to have 30 or more points, five or more rebounds and assists, and seven or more blocks in a single game. The other player who accomplished this? David Robinson. Not bad company to keep.
  • With “Point Sochan” now a relic of the past, Wemby’s been getting set up a lot better. Much has been made about Tre Jones’ minutes (or lack thereof), and it’s understandable considering he’s the best playmaker on the team and can easily find Wemby when the latter can throw down dunks without seemingly needing to jump.
  • Although San Antonio’s guard play has improved offensively with their new lineups, the perimeter defense is still as questionable as ever. Portland's backcourt of Scoot Henderson and Malcolm Brogdon combined for 54 points on 9-15 shooting from deep, and Jerami Grant, who’s listed as a power forward but plays more like a wing, dropped 29 points himself as well. Neither Jones nor Branham were drafted to be perimeter stoppers, but the same can’t be said about Devin Vassell, whose below-average defensive play is a bit disappointing considering he came into the league expecting to be a 3&D guard.
  • Jeremy Sochan played a good game and ended the night with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists on 6-10 shooting. He made a number of key passes and showed some nice flashes as a playmaker, which is one of the reasons why Pop was so adamant about playing him at the point. However, this game also proved that Sochan is still far from becoming a reliable shooter. Don’t let the stats distract you; his 39% three-point shooting only comes on 2.5 attempts per game (most of which are wide open), and even though he’s shooting a decent 75% from the line, he attempts fewer than two free throws per game and has now resorted back to shooting one-handed. It certainly doesn’t help when he’s missing shots like this:

Play of the game

By now, we’re all used to Wemby making ridiculous blocks every game, but this one might be one of his most impressive so far this season.

Next game: at Portland on Friday

The Spurs are back in the same building and will play against the same opponent tomorrow night when they finish their baseball series against the Blazers. Tipoff will once again be at 5pm CST.