There was a lot of hype for the San Antonio Spurs’ matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder on the NBA’s “rivalry week.” Despite the two teams having rookie do-it-all big men, they couldn’t be any further apart, as was apparent on the court. Oklahoma City blew out the Spurs 140-114 in San Antonio’s first game of its home stand.
Despite the best efforts of Victor Wembanyama, the Spurs could not contain nor keep up with the Thunder. Wembanyama, motivated by a matchup with fellow Rookie of the Year candidate, Chet Holmgren, went off for 24 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. He went right at the opposing big man, dunking on him and staring him down on a couple of occasions.
The Thunder were led by their MVP candidate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA was unguardable all night, scoring 32 points and adding 10 assists. Oklahoma City was unconscious all game long, knocking down three after three. They hit 18 of their 40 attempts, knocking down 45% of their threes. They shot 56.3% from the field overall.
The Spurs on the other hand were ice cold from three, hitting just 9 of their 32 attempts ( 28.1%) They turned the ball over 19 times, playing sloppy offensive basketball, particularly in the second half. Defensively they had several lapses off the ball, allowing open jumpers and driving lanes for OKC’s role players.
The bench unit was particularly bad on Wednesday. When Victor Wembanyama left the game in the third quarter with the Spurs down 83-70, a second unit group consisting of Keldon Johnson, Malaki Branham, Zach Collins and Cedi Osman gave up a 17-6 run to put OKC up big going into the fourth quarter. The Spurs were outscored 43-26 through the end of the game. Johnson and Branham were -32 and -28 in box score +/- respectively. Miscommunications and flimsy point of attack defense doomed a second unit that couldn’t stop anyone, and couldn’t score.
In the fourth quarter we got a bit of one-on-one action with Wembanyama and Holmgren. After Victor slammed the ball on Chet, he stared the big man down. That awoke Holmgren who played much more aggressive after getting provoked by Wemby.
Holmgren finished the game with 17 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks. After the game Wembanyama told reporters he was not focusing on individual matchups, but watching the tape, it appears like he had some extra juice for Holmgren.
The Spurs will have a chance to bounce back against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday the 26th. The Spurs split a double-header with the Blazers earlier in the month.
- Blake Wesley got the start with Tre Jones sidelines with an ankle injury. The second-year point guard had a solid game, playing strong defense at the point of attack, and making smart decisions on the offensive end. Wesley finished with 12 points, 6 assists and 4 turnovers on 5-5 shooting from the field. He still has a ways to go in slowing himself down, and reducing turnovers, but he’s improved in just about every aspect of his game. Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich, called his defense infectious, and something that the team needs right now.
- Devin Vassell looked good getting to the basket against OKC. He had 21 points with only three of those coming from deep. He was smart making decisions off the catch, either getting to a pull up, or attacking the rim hard. He had 7 assists, showing some of the playmaking chops that shined through in his 9 assist performance on Monday night against Philadelphia.
- The Spurs lost the game by 26 points, they were outscored from the three point line by 27 points. They are allowing opponents to shoot the third highest percentage in the NBA. the perimeter and off-ball defense needs work.