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What we learned from the Spurs loss to the Cavaliers

Signs of fatigue after 10 games in 14 days.

Cleveland Cavaliers v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs looked gassed from Saturday’s tip-off through the rest of the game. Coming off a heartbreaking loss on Friday night, and playing their 10th game in just 14 days, the Spurs looked like a team that desperately needed the All-Star break. The Cleveland Cavaliers capitalized on their fatigue for a 117-101 victory.

Even in the first quarter when San Antonio’s three-point shots were falling, it was apparent that they wouldn’t be able to keep the pace with Cleveland for long. The Cavs got just about every shot they wanted in the paint, a worrisome reoccurring trend for San Antonio this season. Cleveland outscored the Spurs 58-46 inside.

Meanwhile the Spurs couldn’t generate good looks for themselves, and even when they did, they just wouldn’t fall. There were a lot of empty possessions for the Silver and Black, as they turned the ball over 12 times and shot just 36.7% from the field. Typically the Spurs have more assists than their opponents, but against Cleveland they couldn’t convert on shots, even if they had a good set up.

Victor Wembanyama specifically looked slow-footed. He still managed to post a 19 point and 14 rebound stat line with two steals and two blocks. The rookie wall may be catching up to him, or maybe it’s just the San Antonio allergies.

To make matters worse, the Spurs are about to hit the road for the nine-game rodeo road trip, starting with a back-to-back with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. They’ll get a few days to travel and rest before playing again on Wednesday. Perhaps the time off will help them get their legs underneath them again.

Takeaways:

  • Zach Collins and Donovan Mitchell were both ejected late in the game on Saturday, after Collins set a dirty screen and Mitchell retaliated. A fine or suspension could be coming for either player, but given the relatively quick dust-up, it seems unlikely. Collins has to be frustrated with not only losing, but the way he’s been playing since returning from injury. The big man had 10 points and 9 assists off the bench but was a team-low -28 in plus/minus. Collins could use a win or two to boost his confidence.
  • There is a pretty blatant through-line from the Spurs last three losses – dealing with teams who pack the paint and have size. Orlando, New Orleans and Cleveland all made a concerted effort to cut off Wembanyama and others in the paint, sending aggressive help and taking their chances with the Spurs shooting from deep. Those teams all had multiple long and strong defenders who could disrupt them inside. San Antonio needs to start shooting the ball better, or this might become the predominant scout on them.
  • I was impressed with Julian Champagnie’s defense once again. He was deflecting passes, got two blocks and had to play strong against Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen inside. That’s a tough assignment for a wing. He’s stepped up defensively over the last few games. I’d be surprised to see him lose his starting spot anytime soon with that defensive effort. Now he just needs to get the three-pointers to fall.