In what has to be one of the sloppiest, less smartly played games of the season, the Spurs let a win slip away. After being in control for most of the night, San Antonio seemingly forgot to play hard and execute and fell to the Wizards, which only had to be a little bit sharper to escape with a 118-113 victory.
Funnily enough, the Spurs actually looked like a team with a plan early in the game, feeding Victor Wembanyama as often as possible and letting the rookie handle the scoring. Sure, there were some issues on the break and Daniel Gafford was giving San Antonio issues on the offensive board, but the score was close and the home team seemed to have more poise. As the second units checked in with under four minutes to go, the concern was that a drought could be on the horizon for the Silver and Black, but great performances from everyone involved turned a three-point lead into a double-digit one. Blake Wesley made plays on both ends, Dominick Barlow brought energy and Keldon Johnson drove to the basket to get buckets when there were no opportunities to run. After a good opening frame, the Spurs led by 10.
The bench’s issues on offense eventually appeared in the second quarter. Cedi Osman provided a couple of buckets, but the Wizards upped their intensity on defense and made fewer mistakes with the ball, taking away easy transition points and forcing the Spurs to work for every look in the half-court. Things didn’t change as the starters checked back in, as Wembanyama turned the ball over a couple of times and the lineup just couldn’t get open looks against a Washington team that was rotating well and forcing an extra pass on nearly every possession. On the other end, the perimeter defense was allowing open looks from outside and easy paths to the rim. The visitors got back into the game and would stay close going into the break. A strong stretch from Devin Vassell was the main reason why San Antonio was up four at the half.
Once again, the Spurs seemed to be the smarter team for a while to start the third, as Tre Jones aggressively looked for his shot in the pick-and-roll, as the help defender was too concerned with Wembanyama. The illusion of order wouldn’t last long, though, as both teams descended into complete sloppiness. Whoever got to run would score and the defenses were making even bigger mistakes than the insipid offenses, which resulted in a high-pace, high-scoring quarter. Vassell carried the load for the Spurs with Wembanyama resting, but San Antonio simply couldn’t expand its lead significantly. Barlow’s foul trouble got worse, as he continued to struggle with Marvin Bagley III, and Wesley couldn’t repeat his good performance from his first stint. The Spurs led by six after three and had been the better team, but the chaotic nature of the game prevented them from creating separation.
On a normal night, San Antonio probably holds on to get the win. This wasn’t a normal night, unfortunately. The Spurs looked oddly complacent throughout but especially in the fourth. The execution was also horrendous, on both ends. The erratic plays that somehow worked in their favor earlier didn’t late in the game and Wembanyama couldn’t get good looks. Defensively, they were leaving opponents open and not showing consistent hustle. The Wizards weren’t much better, but Daniel Gafford’s energy and Tyus Jones’ steadiness were enough for them to steal the win in the final minutes. Pop called the loss a disappointment in his post-game press conference and it’s hard to use any other word. It’s one thing to be outmatched in the clutch by a better team and another to regress against an opponent that should not have been in it to begin with.
- Victor Wembanyama and Devin Vassell combined for one made three-pointer in nine attempts and nine turnovers to eight assists. They got their points, but their struggles came in areas in which they had shown a lot of growth in recent weeks. Wembanyama’s decision-making was less than ideal, as he tried to dribble too much and took bad outside shots. Vassell couldn’t get separation, so he threw a couple of terrible alley-oop passes to Wemby, hoping to be bailed out, and didn’t look comfortable shooting over bigs after switches. Hopefully it’s just a one-game regression and nothing more.
- Keldon Johnson had some really good moments, not only on offense but also on defense. He arguably also lost the game by turning over with the Spurs down three and 35 seconds to go by forcing a drive. In general, he was decent.
- Jeremy Sochan went 1-for-7 from the field and his slow release on his three-pointer cost them against a Wizards team that closed out hard on him. He was asked to play center when Dominick Barlow fouled out and the Wizards immediately started successfully attacking the rim. It’s not his fault or Pop’s considering the Spurs are without two rotation centers due to injuries, but Sochan at center just doesn’t seem to work.
- Tre Jones was solid, finishing with 11 points and eight assists. He did struggle from the field but he didn’t turn the ball over. Blake Wesley was a little too aggressive at times and found himself in foul trouble, but had a great first stint. It was a messy game, but the point guards weren’t to blame.
- Cedi Osman had his best game in weeks, scoring 22 points and filling out the stat sheet. When the Spurs are at their sloppiest, Osman shines simply by being a smart veteran who makes the right plays. Hopefully this game will help his trade value.
Play of the game
This play is chaotic enough to be a microcosm of the game. The Spurs got away with things like this for a while until they didn’t and it cost them the game.
eyes on the back of his head pic.twitter.com/YTt4P4VdFJ— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 30, 2024
Next game: vs. the Orlando Magic on Wednesday
Which version of the Spurs will we get against the Magic, the one that beat Minnesota or the one that gave a game away to the Wizards?