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A typical 4th quarter spoils an overall good performance in Spurs loss to Warriors

Only 5 games remain . . .

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

After a hard fought and well played three quarters the San Antonio Spurs floundered in the final frame to begin their three-game West Coast road trip losing to the defending champions Golden State Warriors; 130-115.

The road team did get off to a fast start (9-2 lead) in the opening minutes thanks to sloppy Warriors turnovers leading to easy points on the other end. Malaki Branham who is finishing his rookie campaign strongly started this game constantly cutting through the paint and getting open layups at the rim. The lid seemed to be on both buckets early on as neither team was having much success from outside the arc with the Warriors going 0-10 in the first 12 minutes with the Spurs not doing much better starting 2-10 from three. The Silver & Black did have a narrow 26-23 lead after one.

The second period started off with some super impressive defensive plays by Two-Way rookie Dominick Barlow, who was putting on a shot-blocking masterclass. Then after missing their first 13 threes to start the game, Steph Curry finally got the Warriors going from the outside hitting back-to-back triples including an and-1 on the second make. The Spurs fought back attacking downhill with Malaki and Keldon Johnson doing most of the damage on offense. Unfortunately to end the quarter Jordan Poole got red-hot to give the Warriors a 54-51 advantage heading into the break.

The home side got off to a better start in the second-half with the Spurs forcing a lot of looks on offense while the Warriors were in a groove which helped them extend their lead to double-digits. San Antonio weren’t going to give in that easy as they hit Golden State back with a taste of their own medicine hitting four threes in a matter of minutes courtesy of Keldon and Julian Champagnie. The Spurs continued this momentum to further their offensive onslaught this time taking advantage of some lazy transition defense from the Warriors to take a slender one-point lead into the final 12 minutes; 88-87.

But the end of the third quarter was to be the last of any Spurs momentum in this game because the Warriors turned it on in the final frame to shut the door on any potential upset from San Antonio. It started with an 11-2 run to go up eight and from that point on Golden State never looked back. Steph, Poole and Klay Thompson piled it on from three and the Spurs could never recover, losing in the end by 15; 130-115.

Game notes

  • Typical 4th Quarter. There have been a lot of positives this season for the Spurs, which is quite rare when you have only won 19 games, but the Spurs have executed a pretty decent tank season where they have locked up top draft odds while developing their players. One big disappointment though is their inability so far to show any growth in closing games out. Every close fourth quarter has looked pretty much the same; beaten on the defensive glass for second-chance points, poor decisions on offense that lead to careless turnovers and miscommunication on defense that leaves shooters wide open and players at the rim with no one around them for layups and dunks. The Spurs still have 5 games left and it would be nice to see them show they can close out a tight game with poise and composure in those big clutch moments.
  • The Tank Continues. Even with the Spurs having locked up the best odds at the #1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, PATFO continues to sit some of their better players while they turn to their rookies and fringe players they want to take a longer look at. Today’s casualties were Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan, Zach Collins, Romeo Langford and Doug McDermott who all sat for injury management reasons. This gave Sandro Mamukelashvilli, Julian Champagine and Dominick Barlow more minutes to show that San Antonio should invest further in their development next season. All three gave good performances this game, but with more rookies to come next season the Spurs will need to make decisions about who they want to keep and who are disposable, so as much as these next few games are meaningless record-wise, they serve to be quite important to those on the fringe of the roster.
  • Gorgui Dieng. I’ve been very critical of Gorgui getting rotational minutes this season as he has mostly looked pretty bad and it doesn’t make much sense to have him play while some of the younger players sit, but credit where credit is due, Dieng had his best performances of the season in this one. In 17 minutes the oldest player on the Spurs roster had 14 points and 10 rebounds with two assists, hitting a team-high four triples.

Play of the night

Mamu is looking more and more like Manu every game.

Next game: @ Sacramento Kings on Sunday

The Spurs stay in California and head to Sacramento where they will play the Kings who are riding high after securing a playoff berth for the first time in 16 seasons.