Coming off a 115-94 loss to the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night, the Spurs looked to kick off their inaugural game at the Moody Center in Austin with a win against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Spurs would be without key players yet again due to injury: Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan, Khem Birch, Charles Bassey, Doug McDermott, and Devonte’ Graham. The Blazers would also be without a handful of their key players: Matisse Thybulle, Nassir Little, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, Ibou Badji, and Damian Lillard. However, something important to note is that Keldon Johnson and Zach Collins were back in the starting lineup!
This game had 11 ties and 11 lead changes, and each team won two quarters. After enduring a see-saw affair, the Spurs found themselves down by seven with five minutes remaining in the fourth. That’s when they hit three straight threes to take a 123-119 lead with just above three minutes remaining. Long story short, they would not relinquish the lead. The Spurs won in front of a sold out crowd of 16,023 rowdy fans at the Moody Center 129-127.
Keita Bates-Diop led the team in scoring with 25 points and also had six rebounds, four assists, and a steal. He also shot a scorching 63.6% from the field!
Post em’ up, KBD! KBD gets the and-one finish over Trendon Watford in the post.
Unselfish basketball! On the fastbreak, KBD decides last second to fake the layup for a handoff pass to Blake Wesley for the assist.
Keldon Johnson also had a great all-around game with 24 points, five rebounds, four assists, and a steal. Also, witness the new era: Headband Keldon.
Here’s KJ getting the Spurs on the board first with a catch and shoot middy off the inbounds pass.
AND-ONE! KJ catches the nice bounce pass from Zach Collins for the and-one finish.
CORNER SPECIALIST BADGE ACTIVATED. KJ knocks down the open trey from the corner on the fastbreak.
SPIN CYCLE. Off the defensive rebound, KJ takes it coast to coast and spins off of Kevin Knox II to lay it in!
Anytime Keldon is in the paint, expect a finish. Also, you can always count on him to hype up the team and the crowd no matter what.
One of the more unlikely storylines for this team post-trade deadline is the rise of Julian Champagnie. He dropped 24 points, five rebounds, two steals, and an assist. From his debut with the Spurs on March 4th to March 31st, he averaged 16.7 minutes, 6.5 points, and 2.9 rebounds per game, shooting 43.9% from the field and 35.9% from three. In his last three games ALONE he is averaging 27 minutes, 20 points, and 5.7 rebounds per game shooting 53.8% from the field and a scorching 47.8% from three. There are only two more games left in the season, but if he keeps lighting it up like this, he’s bound to earn a roster spot for next season.
SPLASH. Julian knocks down the open three to give him 19 points with just under five minutes left in the second quarter.
Julian for threee— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 7, 2023
19 PTS | 3 REB pic.twitter.com/pUnkmTqhaM
Zach Collins returned from injury and picked up right where he left off. He finished with a double-double (21 points and 10 rebounds) with four assists and three blocks.
CLEAN UP YOUR MESS! After missing the open three, Zach collects the offensive rebounds and proceeds to dunk on everyone in the paint!
GET THAT OUTTA HERE! Zach swats away Watford’s attempt at the rim into the stands.
How about another slam? After the Blazers get confused on defense, KJ finds Zach for the open dunk!
CLUTCH DEFENSE. Late in the fourth, Zach swats away another shot attempt at the rim, and it also goes into the stands.
Malaki can dunk too! On the fastbreak, KBD finds Malaki Branham for the one-handed slam!
MAMU SWAT! Sandro Mamukelashvili swats the layup out of bounds!
Here are the rest of the stats from the Silver and Black.
Final Stats— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 7, 2023
KBD: 25p | 6r | 4a
KJ: 24p | 5r | 4a
Julian: 24p | 5r | 2s
Zach: 21p | 10r | 4a | 3b
Tre: 18p | 10a | 4r
Dom: 5p | 2r
Mamu: 4p | 7r | 2s
Romeo: 4p | 3r | 3a
Malaki: 2p | 3r
Blake: 2p | 2r pic.twitter.com/pLq4q8fGd7
It’s clear that this team wanted to give their fans in Austin a show, even in this tanking season, and they accomplished their mission with an exciting shootout victory! With two games left in the season and one more in Austin, these guys are going to simply leave everything on the court.
Anyways, here are the full game highlights.