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The greatest hits from the Spurs’ narrow home loss to the Bulls

Playing without Wembanyama, San Antonio came back from an 18 point deficit with plenty of notable plays.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

This is a highlights post, and I promise we will get to those highlights, but to my first highlight there is no motion picture clip (except for the entire game): The San Antonio Spurs managed to take a game into crunch time in which a) their best player had to sit out and b) four out of their five starters combined for a measly 27 point on 8 from 38 shooting.

The main reason the Spurs competed for 48 minutes was Tre Jones, who had a career night, scoring 30. The guy who makes Wemby – and therefore the Spurs – better when he’s in the starting lineup, took over as the Spurs’ best player when Wemby is out. That doesn’t make Tre a starter-level point guard in the NBA. But Tre is most definitely the catalyst for Spurs fans to feel better about their team in what is the very definition of a painful developmental season.

Tre did many of the things he does well Saturday night, his three signature offensive plays were all on display: the drive to the rim that results in a layup, the drive that stops before the restricted area and turns into a runner, as well as the lob assist.

The runner:

Tre runner:

The lob:

However, that’s not how Tre scored 30 last night. He earned himself six trips to the charity stripe, 4.5 more than his average, and he converted each time. More importantly, he took five attempts from long distance, more than twice his average, and he made four of them. Interestingly, he didn’t just spot up, as here:

Tre also pulled up from long range. And the pull-up was particularly beautiful because the whole thing was so very human. Tre, a world-class athlete earning double-digit millions to play a game, sees an opportunity to pull up from the beyond the arc opens up for him, and you can tell he’s hesitant to take it because he has doubts about himself (like you and me every once in a while have doubts ourselves in the job we’re paid to do because we’re somewhat good at it).

Talking about things guys are good at, Keldon Johnson is good at forcefully dunking the ball through the rim. What I like about him in particular: He’s clearly one of the Spurs five best basketball players, but you’ve heard no complaint from him since he’s been deployed as the Spurs’ sixth man, not even a hint of a complaint. He just keeps on dunking:

I must admit I’m not sure I’ll ever say the Spurs made good picks at number 20 and 25 in 2022. Thus far, I think of Malaki as a shaky-3-and-no-D shooting guard and of Blake as a lightning-quick slasher who has major trouble finishing around the rim. But there’s little I more as a Spurs fan than watching Spurs players proving me wrong, even if only situationally.

Here’s Malaki stealing the ball and converting the subsequent layup opportunity:

And here’s Blake throwing it down “with authority”:

For those of you who missed the game, here’s the full highlights: