After taking a drubbing at the hands of OKC on Wednesday night, the San Antonio Spurs bounced back by beating the Blazers 116-100 at home. There was no Wemby vs Chet spectacle on display, but it was entertaining to watch Sochan have a career night while Victor Wembanyama did all of the Wemby things.
As the worst Western Conference teams, defense was optional to start the game. The two sides traded wide-open layups as if they were practicing for All-Star festivities, and both teams hit double-digit points less than three minutes after tip-off. The only memorable defensive plays that happened, though, unsurprisingly came from Wemby. The rookie recorded back-to-back blocks that eventually led to a three from Jones, with the second one being particularly memorable.
Following a short run by Portland, the Spurs answered and led for the remainder of the game. Wemby hit two consecutive threes to shift the momentum in San Antonio’s favor, and Sochan took on most of the scoring burden from then on. The 20-year-old showed flashes of his all-around game by aggressively attacking the rim while also bombing away from deep, and he finished the night shooting 12-20 from the field and 4-7 from three.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Spurs win without a close call at the end. With San Antonio up comfortably for most of the second half, Wemby checked out of the game with just over three minutes to go. Roughly a minute later, he was back in, as Portland had cut the lead to 10. Anfernee Simons had hit a few threes and tough stepbacks to keep the Blazers within striking distance, and the Spurs’ lackluster perimeter defense was put on full display.
San Antonio thankfully managed to hold on for the win, but their inexperience in closing games almost cost them another W. Still, it’s nice to come out victorious following a crazy week filled with insane performances, and playing a relatively uneventful match could help the team regain some composure.
- Sochan had one of the best games of his career and finished with 31 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. As mentioned before, the forward put his entire offensive arsenal on display by scoring at the rim and from three. With that said, the Blazers’ coverage of him was absolutely horrible — Sochan had at least three wide-open layups and most of his triples were open too. He air-balled a three too, so Sochan’s erratic shot plagues him even on his best nights. Nonetheless, even with Portland intentionally sagging off of him, it’s still encouraging to see Sochan capitalize on the opportunities that he was given.
- Wemby finished the night with 23 points and 12 rebounds on 7-18 shooting from the field and 3-7 from three. It wasn’t his best performance and yet he was still one of the most impactful players on the court. The first half, in particular, had a number of plays that showed how good he already is, and how much more growth he has left. The back-to-back blocks and triples will be all over highlight reels, but after those sequences, he also had a running one-legged attempt from three with 20 seconds left on the shot clock, and no one was within 10 feet of him. On defense, he also bit on a pump fake from Ayton that resulted in a basket, and both plays show that his decision-making can be improved drastically. The fact that he’s already this good, though, is a scary thought for the rest of the league.
- With Tre Jones starting, I no longer want to pull my hair out while watching the Spurs on offense (sometimes). However, his size will always make him a target defensively, and perimeter defense as a whole remains one of San Antonio’s biggest weaknesses. Some of the shots that Simons made were just the result of him being a great scorer, but it just seemed like he got to do whatever he wanted on the perimeter. Vassell’s defensive game has also been a letdown this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how the front office plans on shoring up the perimeter D moving forward.
Play of the game
For whatever reason, Sochan’s burst and athleticism still catch me off guard at times, and it seems like other teams feel the same way.
Next game: Saturday vs Timberwolves