The San Antonio Spurs have been playing some of their best basketball of the season lately. Two tough losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers, and a blowout win in Detroit had the team riding a high. They carried that momentum into their matchup with the Charlotte Hornets, convincingly crushing them 135-99.
They were once again led by their rookie superstar, Victor Wembanyama. In just 20 minutes, the big man had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks. 13 of those points came in a 6-minute stint in the third quarter, where he rattled the rim with some powerful dunks.
The Spurs were electric on the defensive end. From tip off San Antonio was playing aggressive defense and crashing the glass. Until garbage time started with 9:38 left in the fourth quarter, the Spurs held the Hornets to 31.1% shooting from the field (finished 36% for the game.) San Antonio played the passing lanes and took advantage of Charlotte’s loose handle on the ball, forcing 20 turnovers.
It wasn’t always easy sledding for the Spurs offense. They struggled to make shots in the first quarter, but once they got rolling, boy, did they get rolling. Devin Vassell started the party with some aggressive drives and tough finishes in the mid-range. He was excellent sharing the ball and picking his spots to be aggressive offensively. The wing finished with 12 points, 5 assists and 2 steals.
It was a close game going into the second quarter when Doug McDermott caught fire. He hit all four of his three-pointers in the second, opening up a 21-point lead going into halftime. McDermott finished the game with 14 points, but needed to leave the game after turning an ankle in the third quarter. After the game he told reporters it was just an aggravation of an old injury, and he would more than likely not have to miss much time.
With a 21-point lead going into the second half, the Spurs leaned on their big man to really blow things wide open. They found Wembanyama early and often in the third quarter on lobs. Victor scored the Spurs first 11 points in the quarter, and finished his stint with 13 points in the third. He helped San Antonio win it’s fourth consecutive third quarter – a nice turnaround after the teams struggles coming out of halftime.
Despite playing just 20-minutes, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Wembanyama would not suit up for the second game of the team’s back-to-back against Chicago on Saturday night.
San Antonio finished the game shooting 51.7% from the field and 47.4% shooting from three. They won the battle on the glass, and had 31 total assists and 15 turnovers. LaMelo Ball led the Hornets in scoring, putting up 28 points and 5 assists in his first game back from injury.
“We kept a good pace, Popovich told reporters. “At the start of the game neither team could make a shot, and then we got it together as far as getting come buckets to go down. We were pretty solid on both ends of the floor. They look like they are understanding how to play together.”
San Antonio will host the Chicago Bulls in the second game of a back-to-back. The Bulls have defeated the Spurs twice this season. The Silver and Black will have a chance to get one back on Saturday night.
- Jeremy Sochan had one of his best games of the season against Charlotte. He was lights out defensively, and provided some good off-ball scoring and playmaking offensively. Popovich praised his defense, telling reporters he’s gotten much smarter on that end. He finished the game a team-high +35, scored 13 points and added in 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block.
- Malaki Branham has slowly worked his way back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for a game. He looked good against the Hornets, adding in 8 points and 4 assists off the bench. He hit two threes and played solid defense. As a ball-handler in the second unit, this is exactly the type of performance you want to see from the second-year man.
- It’s hard to overstate just how effective Dominick Barlow has been as the back-up big man. Once again he competed on both ends and helped keep the team afloat in the Wemby-less minutes. Barlow finished with 5 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Play of the Game
Wembanyama with one of his patented Nerf-hoop dunks.