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Spurs newcomers make their mark in double OT loss to the Pistons

Clear eyes, full hearts, roster turnover.

San Antonio Spurs v Detroit Pistons Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

You know that GIF of John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction” where he turns in the room looking around him? That’s how I felt looking around at the lineup against the Detroit Pistons. Regardless, the good guys delivered a double OT equivalent of Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album against their Motown counterparts.

Brand new Spur addition Devonte’ Graham led the team with 31 points. Zach Collins took over for OASAAS Jakob Poeltl (freshly traded back to the Toronto Raptors) and notched a double-double with 29 points and 11 boards. Rookie Malaki Branham showed out with a career-high 27 points.

Devonte’ Graham’s debut was notable in that it was the most ever scored by a Spur in their first game. The team’s newest addition is no stranger to producing points as he’s been a solid scorer in New Orleans and Charlotte. In his second year with the Hornets (Charlotte, not when New Orleans also used to be the Hornets because Jazz is sooo prolific in Utah—I digress), he averaged 18.2 points so the Spurs will be using his skills as instant offense off the bench or even as a starter when needed.

The cookie may look different, but the ingredients are largely the same. The Spurs way is teamwork, and while the faces have drastically changed over the years, it’s plays like this that wistfully remind us of familiar old times. With a full roster, the team should be able to take advantage of all its play makers.

Graham had the green light in his rich turquoise inauguration, draining this deep three late in the fourth quarter. The fifth-year point guard took a whopping 16 attempts from downtown and drained 6 on Friday night. His previous high in attempts from three was against none other than the Spurs on December 2 when he made 6 out of 11 three pointers.

Zach Collins also had a career high in points with most of his 29 produced the old fashion way down low. The big man took advantage of the increased opportunities and admirably manned the post for the Spurs.

Case in point, take a gander at the beautiful footwork on this spin move that Collins uses to get around his man for the easy bucket. The former 10th overall pick will have an open runway the rest of the season to show off his wares for the Spurs. PATFO’s low-risk gamble on Collins might pay off as long as he can stay healthy and out of foul trouble.

Stanley Johnson hit the nitro on this coast-to-coast finish at the rim. The veteran forward came off the bench and contributed 8 points and 10 rebounds. If Vin Diesel wanted to make a Fast & Furious movie 11, my pitch is Mario Kart go-karts on a basketball court—starring Pedro Pascal (if you know, you know) as the heel who inevitably turns into the good guy like the previous 10 FF movies. As long as Vin Diesel makes it about family and the weird way he holds a bottle of beer, I’m in!

Graham showed off his cross-over skills on this play where he weaved his way through three defenders for the finish at the rim with the and-1 for good measure. The new Spur will add another deep threat from three but breaking down the defense like this will also be an asset for the offense.

Doug McDermott cut his way to the basket and found himself open for the prompt dump off from Keita Bates-Diop. Bates-Diop led the team with 5 assists as he led the charge in distributing the ball around on Friday night.

Malaki Branham’s favorite month might be February. We have no evidence to back this up other than the rookie’s splits in February indicate a burgeoning bucket getter. Branham’s career high of 27 points on Friday eclipsed his previous career high by one point, achieved all the way back on February 3rd of last Friday.

The small forward is averaging 18.8 points over 5 games in February as his minutes have gone up due to injuries to the roster. Going forward, Branham should continue to show off his offensive prowess while looking to nail down some consistency in his play.

And last but never least, the full-game highlights:

Next up, the Spurs head over to Atlanta to take on the Hawks on Saturday, February 11, 2023.