With a chance to avoid tying their franchise-record 16-game losing streak, the Spurs returned home to take on a shorthanded Chicago Bulls team that has massively underperformed this season but found its stride of late (because of course). Unfortunately, it was the same old story for the Spurs. They looked good on both ends early and led by double digits at halftime, but once again they came out of the break flat and got completely rolled over in the second half, losing 112-121.
Victor Wembanyama led way for the Spurs with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks, and Keldon Johnson chipped in 20 points, including six threes. Four Bulls starters scored 20 or more, led by 24 from Coby White.
- Gregg Popovich made another change to the starting lineup for this one, bringing Jeremy Sochan back for Cedi Osman and replacing Zach Collins with Malaki Branham. When asked before the game about the move, he described it as intended to have four perimeter players around one big, and apparently a topic and he his staff discussed “for hours”. I’ve made a case before for Victor Wembanyama to play more center before, and he held his own against two much bigger centers in Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond.
- With no “point guard” to start the game, it seemed like the idea early was whoever got the rebound brought the ball up against the pace-adverse Bulls, be it Wemby, Vassell, or whoever. It wasn’t ideal as they had five turnovers in the first six minutes, almost entirely in transition, but things calmed down from there, and they only had two more the rest of the first half to get out to a 63-52 lead.
- That being said, the move had its benefits, especially for Branham and Collins. Both seemed to rediscover their missing shooting form with each hitting 2-2 from three in the first half. Wemby holding his own at center also unsurprisingly opened the floor up more for his teammates. Overall, they hit 11-22 threes in the first half, three more than they hit in the entire game against Minnesota. Johnson had four of them.
- It’s not a Spurs game without a third quarter meltdown. As is always the case, everything that went well in the first half stopped working after the break. The threes stopped falling, the offense got stagnant, and sure enough a 13-0 run gave the Bulls the lead. Vucevic started finding his touch inside, and DeMar DeRozan, who’d had a very rough shooting night, forced his way to the line to get the Bulls in the bonus early to outscore the Spurs 35-20, adding to their league-worst net rating in the third quarter.
- Doug McDermott tried to help keep the Spurs alive in the fourth quarter with a few threes, but Torrey Craig was the latest random player to go off on the Spurs, hitting four three of his own, and fourth quarter DeRozan (we all remember him) made an appearance. The Spurs otherwise remained incompetent both ends outside of some flashes, and for the 8th or 9th straight time this season (I’ve lost track), the Spurs blew yet another double-digit lead at home, which has to be some kind of record. Young or not, there really is no excuse anymore.
- If there’s one random player I’ve always wanted to be a Spur, it’s Alex Caruso. I watched him all four of his years at Texas A&M, and even though he wasn’t much of a shooter in college, he had that Manu Ginobili-ness about him, particularly in his passing game and defensive ability for a guard. He’s also a success story for undrafted and two-way players to look up to as proof that they can build a lucrative NBA career.
- Just leaving this here for the haters who are blaming Wemby or saying he’s a bust already:
Tonight is Victor Wembanyama’s 20th career game.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) December 9, 2023
He is now the first player in NBA history to post 350 points, 50 assists, 50 blocks and 25 steals in his first 20 career games.