Following two hard-fought games against the lowly Trail Blazers, San Antonio got a taste of basketball’s elite by getting blown out at home against the Celtics.
Right from the tip, Boston asserted themselves by generating and hitting open threes through beautiful ball movement. The Spurs’ defensive effort was there, but alas, the ball still moves faster than any player can. Offensively, Devin Vassell ran the show, as he picked up right where he left off after scoring nine points in the fourth quarter against Portland on Friday night. The 23-year-old ran multiple pick-and-rolls while creating a number of shots for himself, and it felt like he was San Antonio’s only threat from the perimeter.
Unsurprisingly, the Spurs’ most dangerous weapon was Wemby. Interestingly, it didn’t feel like the rookie phenom made much of an impact early on, and yet the box score showed that he already had 13 points in the first quarter alone. Like all great players, that’s exactly what makes him special, though: even when Wemby isn’t making highlight reel plays, he still finds a way to impact the game and help his team.
With Wemby and Vassell both on their game, the Spurs managed to keep up with Boston — for a few minutes, at least. San Antonio started the second quarter shooting 10-12 and got several easy baskets when the Celtics threw the ball away on multiple possessions. As soon as Wemby checked out, though, things unraveled. Boston entered halftime on a 17-9 run as Derrick White re-organized the Celtics offense, allowing the two Jays to take over.
Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of Boston’s onslaught. The Spurs have been historically bad in the third quarter this season, and Sunday night proved to be no different. San Antonio’s defense completely crumbled, allowing the Celtics to get several open dunks that seemed to give Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine multiple aneurysms. By the start of the fourth, Boston was already up by 29, allowing their starters to relax on the bench.
It was a disappointing game, to be sure, but not one that’s entirely surprising, either. The Celtics have been the best team in the league thus far this year and just played two consecutive lackluster games — while still winning both — so they were motivated to prove their mettle. Fatigue can’t be used as an excuse for the Spurs either since this was the third game in four nights for both sides, and the score was simply a result of a matchup between two teams on opposite ends of their competitive cycles.
- Wemby finished the game with 21 points and 7 rebounds on 8-16 shooting from the field and 3-7 from deep. The most impressive part? He played less than 24 minutes.
- Encouragingly, Wemby’s efficiency has seen an uptick over the past two weeks. Since December 13th, he’s been shooting 48% from the field and over 43% from deep. I don’t expect that latter figure to continue being that high, but it’s still a good sign that Wemby’s offensively game has been steadily increasing. It’s also not a coincidence that this recent stretch has coincided with the Spurs playing more traditional point guards, and the French prodigy will only get better when San Antonio finds an elite playmaker to pair with him.
- For the second time this month, Wemby only finished with a single block. That was also the only block the Spurs finished with in the entire game. With that said, this isn’t an indictment on the player or team because Boston is designed to pull opposing bigs out of the paint by playing a floor-spacing center in Kristaps Porzingis. However, it does reinforce San Antonio’s need to get more size, which will also lessen Wemby’s burden and keep him more fresh.
- While Malachi Branham had a solid individual game, his playmaking still leaves a lot to be desired — I can’t remember the last time a starting point guard ended a game with 0 assists while still logging over 20 minutes. There were several times when he either didn’t pass to an open Wemby or just missed the mark, and I still don’t understand why Tre Jones doesn’t start when plays like the ones below are second nature to him.
- Vassell had a good game and finished with 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals on 9-15 from the field and 2-4 from three. Like every other Spur outside of Jones, his passing is lacking, as there was a play in the first quarter where he somehow threw the ball over Wemby when the latter had a pretty open lane to the rim. Still, Vassell’s ideal role is more of a shot creator rather than a playmaker, and he sure made a number of tough buckets on Sunday night.
Play of the game
For a second it looked like White was going to try and block Wemby’s shot. Then, Wemby reminded everyone that he has a near 10-foot standing reach.
Next game: Tuesday at Memphis
The Spurs will have another tough test on Tuesday against a streaking Grizzlies team that just got Ja Morant back. Tip-off will be at 5 pm CST on Bally Sports.