After Monday’s pretty win over the Hornets, the Spurs gritted out an ugly victory tonight, not by playing particularly well, but by playing harder than a tough Lakers squad, and gritting out a 109-99 win in Sacramento.
The California Classic Summer League is a warmup for the real Summer League, which starts on Friday in Las Vegas, when Victor Wembanyama will play his first game in the Silver and Black when the Summer Spurs meet the Summer Hornets for possibly the most-watched Summer League game in the history of meaningless overly hyped practice games played by a whole lot of guys who have never played together before.
Since tonight’s contest is all about player evaluation, I’ll focus in the recap on individual player performances and skip the usual coverage of the game flow, which doesn’t matter in this kind of exhibition game.
- Victor Wembanyama—complete no-show. It’s like he wasn’t even there.
- Julian Champagnie—Don’t let the smooth taste fool you. He’s so fluid that you almost don’t notice how good he is at basketball. In the two games in Sacramento, he was the best player on the court. The Spurs made a great choice giving this guy a long-term contract.
- Dominick Barlow—Didn’t have the same kind of dominant performance he did against the Hornets, but held his own against the solid LA bigs, and made a crucial block as time ran out in the first half to preserve the San Antonio lead. He had a very solid overall game tonight without the flashy stats from Monday’s game.
- Malaki Branham—Solid start to the game, and showed off a lot of bounce on offense. He’s not a great defender, and that’s the part of his game he needs to work on. He’s already a really good scorer.
- Charles Bediako—Looked a little overwhelmed in the early part of the game. He started to find his balance in the second half when the Spurs played him in a lineup along with Barlow and used his size to make solid plays on both ends. He’ll need a lot of work in the G-League, but he looks like a solid pickup.
- Sidy Cissoko—His offense has a ways to go, but the guy is an elite defender, and plays with an edge.
- Blake Wesley—Blake has a much better effort on offense tonight. Instead of forcing the ball to the basket, he played more within the offense and took midrange shots when they were available. His defense was solid as usual. The game might be slowing down for him.
- Chaundee Brown—He’s a guy who plays really hard, but not likely to make it to the NBA. He’s done everything the coach asks of him, a really solid player.
- Erik Stevenson—Didn’t make much of an impact, except for hitting a nice open three.
- Javante McCoy—Hit a clutch shot at the end of the first quarter to regain the lead for the Spurs.
- Seth Milner—A sharpshooter who doesn’t seem to have a whole lot more in his game.
- Josh Carlton—A big bruiser who looked better than Bediako at times.
- Matt Neilsen (Coach)—Solid job of getting a bunch of guys who have never played together to look pretty organized on offense and defense, at least until things got a little wacky in the second half.
- Once again, the Spurs got off to a quick start and looked much more organized than the pickup style game that the Lakers were playing. Los Angeles kept it from being a blowout with hot shooting, and worked their way back into the game, taking the lead towards the end of the first,
- While the top of the Summer League roster for the Spurs is talented, it’s not that deep. Once the starters went to the bench, there wasn’t really anyone on the court that you could play in an NBA regular season game.
- The Lakers have a very formidable front court for a Summer League squad. Castleton is a real rim protector, and might get a lot of minutes this year in Los Angeles.
- Champagnie had 10 points on his first three shots. It’s hard to be more efficient than that.
- Max Christie went wild to start the second half to make things interesting, but a huge surge from Champagnie and the Spurs had the Silver and Black up by 13 after three.
- The Spurs lost their composure a bit to start the final quarter, as they started to look like a Summer League team for the first time in California this year, but they righted the ship and gutted out a win by getting the rebounds and stops when they needed them.
The Summer League Spurs will play on Friday night against the Hornets in Las Vegas for Victor Wembanyama’s debut performance in a Spurs uniform. It will be nationally televised on ESPN, and you don’t want to miss it.