On New Year’s Eve the San Antonio Spurs were finally able to put what has been a losing year behind them. The Spurs were drubbed again, this time by the Boston Celtics, 134-101. It was a game that clearly showed the difference between a championship contender and a rebuilding team. This was always going to be a tough game for the Spurs, but without a few key contributors, it was even harder.
“That’s a tough challenge at this particular time for our group,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “The effort was there. It helps to make shots, and we didn’t. But I was pleased with their effort and their ability to hang in the best they could.”
Boston looked like a well-oiled machine on the floor. Moving the ball, getting dribble penetration and finding wide open looks as they shot 54.3% from the field and 36.6% from deep. Jayson Tatum led the way with 25 points, but Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and Kristaps Porzingis all pitched in on the offensive effort. They dominated the Spurs on the glass, out-rebounding them 57-39, grabbing 13 offensive rebounds.
In many ways it was a typical loss for the Spurs in 2023. They were simply outclassed by a better team, and didn’t do themselves any favors with unnecessary turnovers, cold shooting and poor rebounding.
It’s been a year of losing basketball, but 2024 brings hope of a better future for fans. Victor Wembanyama is hitting his stride, and the future of the franchise looks better than it’s present. Perhaps a calendar year reset is what the Spurs need to finish the season on a more positive note.
- What would Wembanyama be capable of without a minutes restriction? Over the last few games he’s begun to figure some things out. He had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a block on Sunday night. The Spurs are looking to get him the ball in the paint, which has helped their offense tremendously. It’s starting to feel like they are playing through him rather than with him. That’s led to more assist opportunities and shots around the rim. His deep ball is falling more often, as he went 3-8 from three. Of course the finger roll/dunk over White is what everyone will be talking about, but more encouraging to me was the shot fake, one-dribble-pull-up he made over Al Horford. Those are the kind of plays that earn him his alien moniker.
- What a bounce-back game it was for Dominick Barlow. The 20-year-old had 8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals off the bench on Sunday. He looked good on defense, working hard to protect the rim and rebound. He even hit his first NBA three-pointer in the fourth quarter! I’m high on Barlow’s potential. With Zach Collins set to miss 2-4 weeks with an ankle injury (according to Popovich,) it would be great to see the big man get some more minutes. He’s proving it in the G League, now give him a shot to do so with the NBA squad.
- A defensive quirk in Jeremy Sochan’s game has stood out like a sore thumb lately. He is not closing out properly. Sochan has a tendency to lunge out at offensive players, which is why he picks up so many fouls on shot fakes. Instead of chopping his feet and getting ready to contest the shot or slide with his man off the bounce, he sprints out and is often beat off the dribble. Sochan is a talented and hard working defender. If he can clean that part of his game up, it will pay dividends to the Spurs defensive attack.