The San Antonio Spurs played well but ultimately lost their fifth game in a row. On Sunday night, the Spurs held double-digit advantages against the Miami Heat a handful of times but couldn’t hold on. When the final buzzer sounded, the Heat had a 118-113 victory and San Antonio was left wondering why their leads always fizzled so fast.
In the first quarter, the Spurs played some of their best defense of the season. They were flying around the court and holding up strong in the paint. At the end of the first, the Spurs were up 29-15.
Things got even better in the second quarter, as San Antonio got up by 19 points. Unfortunately, the Heat came storming back and quickly climbed out of that hole. In the third, the Spurs gained another notable lead … only to see the Heat erase it before the end of the period.
In the fourth quarter, the pattern repeated. The Spurs got up by double-digits — only to see the Heat make a comeback. Down the stretch, Miami’s veteran mettle allowed the Heat to make big plays in big moments.
All in all, I was pleased with how the Spurs played. Sure, losing streaks aren’t fun but this was a competitive ballgame and the good guys fought hard. At this stage, the young Spurs squad simply doesn’t know how to hold leads.
Stats: Spurs vs. Heat
Spurs vs. Heat Final Grades
It’s difficult to summarize Wembanyama’s performance against the Heat with a single grade. There were high highs … and low lows. The good: Wembanyama’s impressive court vision was on full display. His ability to see lanes to open teammates is extremely promising. I also thought the rookie rebounded well and his activity on defense caused the Heat to hesitate and constantly second-guess. Offensively, he was 6-for-13 from two point range and ran the court well. The bad: Wembanyama settled for too many difficult shots, particularly from three-point range. He’ll eventually learn he can almost always get a quality look due to his physical attributes. Wembanyama was also way too sloppy on offense, as evidenced by his seven turnovers. He’ll also learn that casual passing and dribbling doesn’t work in the NBA. Defensively, the rookie sometimes needlessly took himself out of plays by falling for fakes or prematurely rotating. Net-net: A lot of good, a lot of bad. But, hey, a 19-year-old going for 18, 11 and 7 is nothing to yawn at.
I didn’t love Vassell’s shot-selection but he hit 4-of-9 three-pointers, so I can’t fault the end result. More drives to the hoop would have been helpful though, as he only shot three two-pointers and didn’t get to the free throw line. Vassell passed well enough and gave good effort on the boards. Defensively, he was good early on but was rather lethargic in the middle two periods. He picked up his defensive intensity late but it wasn’t soon enough for the Spurs to get a win.
Good work from Johnson tonight. He’s had a couple lackluster performances lately but his effort level against the Heat was fantastic. Offensively, he confidently launched threes, attacked the basket, consistently made the right decision and handled some of the playmaking duties. He led the Spurs with 20 points and had six assists and only one turnover. Defensively, Johnson really competed. He held up well in one-on-one situations and pulled down 12 defensive boards.
With Tre Jones out with a hamstring injury, more point guard pressure fell on Sochan. He performed reasonably well. His playmaking wasn’t anything to write home about but his ball-handling was fine and he was getting the team into the sets. Scoring-wise, Sochan was really good. He knocked down two three-pointers on his way to an efficient 16 points. Defensively, Sochan wasn’t perfect but he did a lot more good than bad. His on-ball pressure was tight, his switches were quick and he exhibited an impressive amount of persistence.
When San Antonio’s offense hit a cold spell, it was often Collins who became the team’s go-to scorer. His rugged play in the paint resulted in a number of quality opportunities. Collins missed a couple chippies but otherwise did well in that role. That said, his passing wasn’t as impactful as usual. His mistakes (three turnovers, four fouls) didn’t go unnoticed. Defensively, I’d classify this as a sub par performance. His individual defense left a lot to be desired, his rebounding wasn’t good and his help-defense was a step slow.
McDermott had a good game. He hit a couple three-pointers and had an athletic finish at the rim. His movement was excellent and he drew a lot of attention, which resulted in him tallying five assists to go along with his eight points. McDermott’s defense was average-for-him.
Filling in for the injured Jones, Branham was excellent. He went 4-for-5 from three-point land while handling point guard duties like a pro. From drive-and-kick to pick-and-roll sets, Branham calmly and smoothly set the table for his teammates. He finished with seven assists and only one turnover in 20 minutes. Branham did so well that the coaches will surely consider putting the ball in his hands more often going forward.
Osman nailed a three-pointer and had a huge block. Other than that, though, he didn’t do a whole lot. His defense was inconsistent and he wasn’t always a source of good on the offensive end. Osman was awesome in preseason and to begin the regular season but has cooled off lately.
Bassey made the most of every second he was on the court. In six minutes, he had five rebounds, a dunk, a steal and a great pass that led to an assist. Bassey couldn’t have done much more than he did.
Pop has to be pretty happy with how his troops fared. I thought Wembanyama got enough touches, although more post touches could have helped the cause. The rotation was mostly fine. In retrospect, more minutes for Branham and less for Osman would have been beneficial. I’m also not sure what else Bassey needed to do to get a longer look.