The San Antonio Spurs have put up a lot of weird numbers this season, but this one might be the most frustrating: they are 1-4 in the five games they held their opponents to under 110 points (they average 111 points per game themselves). I don’t know if the more frustrating part is the fact that they’ve only had five such games, or if it’s their inability take better advantage of a rare “low scoring” night from their opponents, but it’s like the basketball gods have determined they’re not allowed to have a good game on both ends of the court.
Last night’s 98-106 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was one such game, where the defense was there, and outside a little flurry in the fourth quarter, Ja Morant was held relatively in check (including before he twisted his knee late in the first half), but the Spurs continuously shot themselves in the foot with careless, unforced turnovers, seemingly couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn on open threes, and they had a poor showing at the free throw line.
Still, there’s something about the Spurs-Grizzlies matchup that brings a certain level of excitement and highlights, and at least one Spur was there for it. It all started well enough, with Morant deciding he was going to test the league’s newest star, but Victor Wembanyama showed he was no timid rookie, blocking his layup attempt, leading to a breakaway three from Devin Vassell (who would go on to have too quiet of a night, where merely an average one may have led to a win; the basketball gods are cruel).
Wemby wasn’t done there. Despite it being a low scoring first quarter for both teams, one thing his teammates continued to do was find him for dunks — a big step in the right direction.
Perhaps my favorite play from him on the night was this high flyer from outside the restricted area, where he moved the ball around two defenders for the two-handed slam.
And no, that’s not just a player whining for a call (Wemby doesn’t seem to be about that); there truly was some decent contact on his forearm from Santi Aldama, but you can’t really blame the refs for not seeing it in real time since we can’t. Only in slow motion does the uncalled foul become obvious because that’s how quick, smooth and even strong he is in the air considering he held onto the ball through the contact and didn’t even flinch.
Majestic like one of the slow motion videos of great white sharks flying pic.twitter.com/S0ypsCcdtt— dylan (@dylangonzalez21) January 3, 2024
One last wild Wemby play was this ridiculous one-handed, one-legged, double-banker three that briefly gave the Spurs the lead again in the third quarter (before they naturally couldn’t build off that momentum, because of course). The most hilarious part is there was still 9 seconds left on the shot clock, so it was entirely unnecessary. If it hadn’t gone in, he may have heard about it from Gregg Popovich (considering there seems to be a noted effort to rein in his three-point chucking).
Overall, he ended the night with another impressive stat line of 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks, with all the blocks coming in the first half as Memphis made a noted effort not to challenge him at the rim in the second — other than a Morant dunk that we will just say made them even on the night.
Outside of Wemby, no one else really had much of a showing other than second-half Keldon Johnson, who lately has shown a knack for showing up when his team is starting to get desperate. While that part is appreciated (as Jesus pointed out in the recap, this team just lacks that extra gear to finish games, but KJ is trying to bring it), more juice and consistency from him and Vassell throughout the game is needed, especially in these games where they hold their opponents to relatively low scores.
Finally, the full games highlights.