In somewhat of a throwback contest, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat found themselves in a dog fight through three quarters of action. It was a physical, defensive game where both teams fought for momentum. The veteran Heat squad managed to outlast the Spurs, as San Antonio lost their first game of the rodeo road trip 116-104.
“They are more experienced... in the fourth quarter, it showed,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “They outplayed us in the fourth.”
San Antonio struggled with turnovers and slow offense in the final frame. When Popovich finally pulled the plug with about four minutes to go, the Spurs had scored just 11 points. Miami hopped out to a 19-point lead and never looked back.
They were led by their superstar Jimmy Butler. While it was a slow start to the game, he caught fire in the fourth. It started when Keldon Johnson let Butler shoot two wide-open threes, not even bothering to contest the shot. Butler scored 9 of his 17 points in the fourth. He finished with a triple double, adding in 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
The Heat got good offensive performances from their other stars, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. The duo was particularly dynamic in the pick and roll, where Herro got to floaters and pull-ups, or found dump off to Adebayo. Herro had 24 points and 7 assists, while Adebayo scored 20 points.
Devin Vassell led the way for the Spurs, despite a cold shooting night from deep. He finished with 19 points on just 1 of 6 shooting from deep. Vassell was aggressive getting to the basket, attacking closeouts and getting downhill in the pick and roll. If a few open threes go down, it could have been a dominant night for the wing.
Victor Wembanyama struggled a bit against Miami’s tough defense. He managed to still post a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds, knocking down three of his five deep shots. Despite a mismatch with Kevin Love for several stints, the rookie wasn’t able to capitalize on the block. Defensively his impact wasn’t felt as strongly as it typically is. He managed just one block, and a few Heat players were able to get jumpers and floaters over his outstretched arms.
Tre Jones had an effective game as well, scoring 19 points and adding in 6 assists. Jones was the consistent downhill presence the Spurs needed to break the Heat’s defense. To add to his improved shooting over the last month or so, the point guard hit two of his four deep shots.
Ultimately the Spurs couldn’t overcome a cold shooting night, as they shot just 45.6% from the field and 32.4% from deep. That cold streak bit them in the fourth quarter leading to a tough loss. San Antonio will have another shot in Florida with a matchup against the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.
- Wembanyama seems to be hitting the rookie wall. Sean Elliott called it out on the broadcast, and it has seemed noticeable over the last two games. The big man has look noticeably fatigued in prolonged stretches, especially late in the game. These are growing pains every rookie goes through. Wemby will have some time for R&R as the all-star break starts in a week.
- Blake Wesley and Malaki Branham split minutes at backup point guard against Miami. Wesley had a solid game with 5 points and 6 assists off the bench, but Popovich called Branham’s number late in the game. Branham hit an open corner three but turned the ball over two times in his eight minutes. It seems like the Ohio State product could use some time to get his confidence back up, either in garbage time or with the G League team.
- There is a possibility this was the last time we would see Doug McDermott and Cedi Osman in a Spurs uniform. Osman brought energy off the bench, adding 8 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes. McDermott only played 10 minutes and knocked down a three.
- Popovich joked with reporters after the game about the trade deadline. He told them not to sleep tonight, and keep the phone close because an amazing trade deadline is about to happen. It could be a quiet day for the Spurs on Thursday.