It wasn’t the prettiest game for the San Antonio Spurs on Monday. San Antonio came into Atlanta looking flat, and finished the first half down 30+ points. They put it together in the second half, cutting the lead to single digits in the final minutes of the game, but couldn’t finish the comeback in a 109-99 loss to the Hawks.
That second half was filled with highlight moments, starting with the spark plug efforts of Blake Wesley. With the starters not showing enough effort in the first half, Gregg Popovich started the second with a bench lineup. The second-year guard started the half getting a layup to go, and then forced an 8 second violation on the Hawks ball-handlers to kick off an an energetic run. Wesley finished the game with just 3 points and 3 assists, but his defensive effort in the third quarter spring-boarded the Spurs into a comeback.
The Spurs run was fueled by good defensive effort and a killer transition game. They forced the 20 turnovers and scored 24 points on those turnovers. Jeremy Sochan and Victor Wembanyama were dynamic on the break, but it was Tre Jones who was initiating a lot of the highlight plays.
Jones finished the game with 6 points, 12 assists and 3 steals. He threw a couple of great lobs and hit aheads to Wembanyama and company in transition.
The Spurs were also aided by one of the best performances Julian Champagnie has delivered all season. He was tough on the defensive end and knocked down threes on the other. San Antonio relies on him to fill the three-and-D role. Champagnie went 5-8 from three for 15 points.
12 minutes to go...— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 15, 2024
END 3 | SAS 67, ATL 87 pic.twitter.com/Abl9qxIv2r
Wembanyama played a major role in the Spurs second half run. After going scoreless in the first half on just four shot attempts, he was assertive in the second half, hitting shots and protecting the rim. Wembanyama finished the game with 26 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals and 5 blocks.
Victor Wembanyama 26-point second half pic.twitter.com/hKWYVtYtel— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) January 16, 2024
The driving dunk over Jalen Johnson was one of the plays of the night. How do you guard a 7-foot-4 center with an 8-foot wingspan who can put it on the deck, go behind the back and then slam over the top of you? Wembanyama is already showing he can be a special player, and he’s only scratching the surface of his potential.
Wembanyama will also make NBA superstars look like your little cousin that you beat 12-0 in the back yard. Just look what he does to Trae Young on this block.
Trae had zero chance, Wemby ate him up pic.twitter.com/YgS0KpDHNK— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) January 15, 2024
Sochan was also crucial to the Spurs second half play. He stuffed the stat sheet with 23 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks, while knocking down two of his four triples. Sochan was great at attacking the Hawks defense, and made some good plays for other down the stretch. The “point-Sochan” experiment may have been frustrating, but we are seeing some of the fruits of that labor in his improved playmaking ability.
It wasn’t exactly the result the Spurs were looking for, but perhaps a second half run will show the young team what they are capable of when they play with a sense of urgency. San Antonio will get a chance to prove they learned from their mistakes on Wednesday in a matchup against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
You can watch full highlights from the Spurs loss to the Hawks below.