Despite a commendable effort, the San Antonio Spurs ended up losing to the Atlanta Hawks. At 3-15 on the season, the Spurs have now lost 13 straight games. The Hawks improved to 9-9 with the win.
In the first quarter, the good guys gave their home fans a lot to cheer about. Less than four and a half minutes into the game, the Spurs had already built a double-digit advantage. At the end of the period, the Spurs were up 35-26.
San Antonio’s defense showed signs of cracking in the second quarter but the Spurs were able to take a 66-62 advantage into halftime. Riding a red-hot offensive attack, the Silver and Black built another double-digit lead in the third quarter — but their defense couldn’t keep the Hawks at bay. Heading into the fourth period, the Spurs were still up 105-101.
In the fourth, the Spurs led 117-110 with eight and a half minutes to go following a Jeremy Sochan layup. Unfortunately, Atlanta responded with an 11-0 run to grab the lead. The Spurs were able to get back on track offensively but they couldn’t quite do enough defensively. Sochan had a steal in the closing seconds but ended up getting called for a charge when driving to the basket to try to tie the game. The Hawks won 137-135.
Overall, I liked a lot of what I saw. The offense looked cohesive. The defense in the first quarter was pretty good. Sadly, San Antonio’s defense in the final three quarters simply wasn’t good enough to snap the losing streak.
Stats: Spurs vs. Hawks
Spurs vs. Hawks – Final Grades
Wembanyama was awesome in the first quarter. In seven minutes, he had ten points and four rebounds on 4-for-5 shooting including 1-for-1 from deep. He was dominating action on both ends. Wembanyama’s level of play wasn’t as lofty the rest of the game but he still played really well. He ran the court hard, took a lot of smart shots, exhibited great court vision and did well avoiding mistakes. Defensively, he guarded the hoop with determination and utilized his length in the passing lanes. Wembanyama’s decision-making wasn’t flawless (particularly on defense) but, considering everything, it was a rock-solid outing for the 19-year-old.
After a listless performance in his last outing, Johnson bounced back with a fiery showing. He came out of the gates ready to attack — and rarely relented. He picked his spots well, played with confidence, and his toughness and determination kept the Spurs afloat for stretches at a time. Johnson did good work on the boards and he also passed the ball well. That said, his overall impact was limited by his handful of defensive lapses. The Spurs really need him to be more mindful on that end of the floor.
Well, damn. Sochan poured in a career-high 33 points on nearly flawless shooting from the field. The second-year point guard hit 12-of-14 field goals and made all three of his three-pointers and all six of his free throws. He did a fantastic job of using his size advantage at his position to get into the lane. He added to the one-man fiesta by scoring from the perimeter and also making a lot of really, really good passes. The downsides: Sochan could have been more careful with the ball and his defense deteriorated as the game progressed. But, yeah, overall, this was definitely a step in the right direction. Sochan will never be a traditional, pass-first point guard so he has to attack like he did tonight.
The good: Collins might have been the best passer on the team. His passing from the high post was one of the best weapons the Spurs had going. Despite some poor shooting lately, I like that Collins played with ample aggressiveness early in the game. The bad: Collins’ poor rebounding really hurt San Antonio’s chances. He has to corral more contested rebounds than he did tonight. Offensively, his usefulness waned as the contest went along.
Branham started again at shooting guard and it was another night to forget. He scored only two points in 17 minutes. He had a few flashes of heady playmaking and he was much faster to loose balls than usual. But for Branham to provide value, he can’t be a liability on the offensive end like he was versus the Hawks.
The Spurs continue to have Vassell on a minutes restriction of about 27 minutes so the coaching staff opts to bring him off the bench. It’s admirable that Vassell remains uber aggressive despite not starting. Against ATL, he totaled 25 points, four rebounds and four assists while not getting many easy opportunities. Vassell worked hard for his production and remained efficient while doing so. While he was really good on the offensive end, his defense was definitely shaky at times.
At first, Jones was a ball of energy on the court. He was a terror in transition and relentless on defense. Offensively, he was making smart pass after smart pass. Unfortunately, Jones’ value didn’t hold up. In the second half, his defense was mostly ineffective, he wasn’t hustling as desperately as before and he struggled to make the Hawks pay for ignoring him on offense.
It’s great to see Champagnie breaking out of his shooting slump. Against the Hawks, he hit his first five three-pointers and his stroke looked as flawless as it appeared last season. The coaching staff attempted to ride his hot hand but Champagnie ended up missing his final three attempts from downtown. It was a disappointing end for him but I liked his shot-selection and I thought his defense was mostly okay-ish.
Following a blazing start to the season, Osman is reverting to the mean. It’s not a surprising turn of events because he wasn’t going to be automatic from deep all season but it has become clear that Osman has to be shooting straight to guarantee him a spot in the rotation. He’s pretty good in other aspects of the game but when he’s missing, he does nothing else well enough to compensate.
Bassey only played four minutes but it was a loud four minutes. He had two ferocious blocks and clawed his way to an offensive board. He did have three fouls but, in retrospect, he likely could have helped even more if given more minutes.
Tonight’s rotation was more serious. I liked that Pop tried to ride Champagnie’s hot hand and didn’t just stick with the usual. The playcalling was smart and I like how Pop went the extra mile to keep Sochan in positions to succeed. A win would be nice right about now but Pop did all he could versus the Hawks.