After what was looking like another upset win against a top seed in the West the San Antonio Spurs choked away a 29-point lead, eventually losing in overtime to the Memphis Grizzlies; 126-120.
The Spurs who came into this game 2-2 in their current six-game homestand were playing well on both ends before coaching errors and rookie mistakes led to their eventual downfall in their second-half collapse to their division rivals.
If you try to forget the second half, the Spurs looked like one of the best teams in basketball in the way they played in the opening 24 minutes of the contest. They came out the gates red-hot from three, with six of their first seven makes coming from beyond the arc. For the Grizz, Jaren Jackson Jr was taking the majority of the offensive responsibility with Ja Morant still away from the team with his league suspension. The surprising part of the Silver & Black’s phenomenal first half was that they did it mostly without star rookie Jeremy Sochan, who left the game midway through the first period with knee soreness and didn’t return to the game. The home team had a nine-point lead after one, mostly thanks to the steller play off the bench by Keita Bates-Diop who dropped 11 points in his first stint of the game.
Then after a Malaki Branham basket to start the second quarter the Spurs had their first double-digit lead of the game. The Spurs were continuing to knock down the outside shot with Blake Wesley doing a fantastic job of getting into the paint and kicking the ball out to open shooters on the perimeter. Zach Collins was continuing his great run of play with another big first-half in which he had 16 points and dominated inside the paint on both ends of the floor. All in all it was one of the better halves of the season for San Antonio and they deservedly led 69-46 heading into the half-time break.
It looked like the Spurs wouldn’t have a problem closing out this game in the second half after they came out of the break continuing their three-point barrage and extending the lead to a game-high 29. But this was where their run of good play ended because Memphis started to fight back, starting with 8-0 run which brought the deficit down to 21. The Grizzlies only hit two threes in the first two quarters but the outside shot started to fall for the road team in the third and this helped cut down the lead even further. Keldon Johnson was doing his best to keep the Spurs huge advantage afloat but once he exited the game with a few minutes to play in the third the Grizzlies took over again. Memphis went on to hit a few more shots towards the end of the quarter including a deep banked three by Luke Kennard at the buzzer to bring the score to a manageable 93-81 heading into the fourth.
San Antonio couldn't get anything to go to start the final 12 minutes with their offense looking completely sloppy and out of any sort of flow. Fortunately Pop came to his senses and brought a few starters back into the game which helped steady the ship for a few possessions. The refs were allowing contact to go throughout the entirety of the game and this was putting the defenses at an advantage as players were able to get right up into guys without this whistle being called. This also meant both teams weren’t able to score with much ease down the stretch, but the Spurs were still hanging on to a narrow six-point lead with two minutes to play. Devin Vassell who was having his best game since he returned from knee surgery hit the biggest shot of the game for the Spurs with 90 seconds to play when he launched a deep three with the shot clocking running down and nailed it to put San Antonio up nine. From this point on the Silver & Black should have closed the game relatively easily, but alas that wasn’t the case. The Grizz fought back and hit two threes in the final 10 seconds to tie the game up and send it to overtime; 109-109.
In OT the Spurs kept it close for the first three minutes before the road team showed a bit more composure on both ends of the floor to execute in the big moments and wind up with a comeback win; 126-120.
- Gorgui Dieng. I try to stay pretty optimistic and positive when it comes to the Spurs but this loss is tough to do so. The Spurs were playing so well in the opening two and a half quarters, and then for some inexplicable reason Coach Pop inserted Gorgui Dieng into the game for the first time on the night. Dieng brings a great Vet presence to the locker room and it’s obvious to see the younger guys love having him around for guidance and mentoring. But at this point in his career Dieng is a shell of himself, Udonis Haslem type of washed. I can’t remember one time this season when Dieng has come into a game and even looked competent, let alone good. He takes horrible shots on offense, can’t defend a parked car and turns the ball over regularly on offense. I will never say a loss is ever on one player or solely on the coaching staff, but Dieng’s influence in this game was huge for the Memphis Grizzlies' comeback. In six minutes played Gorgui was a MINUS-16 and those numbers back up the eye test. He turned the ball over twice, went 0-3 on his shots and couldn’t protect the rim on defense. There was no reason he needed to be in the game, yes Sochan was injured and KBD didn’t play in the second half after aggravating his Achilles injury, but the Spurs still had Collins, Mamu and Barlow to play minutes at the 5. Dieng shouldn’t see the floor again this season in rotational minutes. Also, Pop has to take his fair share of the blame for deciding to insert Dieng into the ball game instead of playing small or extending Collins’ minutes.
- Good loss v Bad Loss. There will be fans that are happy the Spurs loss tonight, because it means that with Houston winning the Silver & Black drop to the second worse record in the league. But being happy that your team choked a 29-point lead is weird, this was not a good loss where players, coaches and fans can leave and be happy with the result of the game, the young Spurs needed to show they could close a 29-point lead, and tonight they showed they couldn’t and that’s not a good thing. Hopefully next time San Antonio are in this situation they show learnings from this defeat and in the long term this loss actually helped the development of the team and it wasn’t for nothing.
- Postives. Even with the bad loss, there were some positive performances to take from this game.
- Zach Collins: 24 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and four triples
- Devin Vassell: 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and five triples
- Malaki Branham: 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and four triples
Play of the night
Ah! The first half when everything was going so well. Great job from Blake Wesley getting into the paint before a beautiful find to Devin for the open three. The rookie from Notre Dame is starting to figure things out!
D3VIN!! ☔️☔️☔️@spurs | #PorVida pic.twitter.com/u9VQDjUloh— Bally Sports San Antonio (@BallySportsSA) March 18, 2023
Next game: vs. Atlanta Hawks on Sunday
The Spurs will look to rebound from this bad loss in their final home game of this homestand on Sunday when they face the Atlanta Hawks and welcome back Dejounte Murray to San Antonio for the first time since his trade in the summer.