Last season’s edition of the San Antonio Spurs was one of the worst defensive teams in NBA history. Monday night was a reminder that San Antonio’s defense is still a work in progress. Playing in Indiana, the Spurs got blasted by the Pacers by a final score of 152-111.
While the Spurs were poor in multiple areas on defense, their inability to defend the three-point shot was especially jarring. In the first half, the Pacers scored 86 points and hit 14-of-22 shots from beyond the arc. The majority of those shots were open looks.
The Spurs were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and were without Devin Vassell but those aren’t sufficient excuses for their defensive woes. Pop and crew have a lot of work to do on that end of the court.
Stats: Spurs at Pacers
Spurs at Pacers – Final Grades
The good: Wembanyama rebounded well, got to the free throw line and hit a couple three-pointers. His rim protection was also a plus. The bad: Offensively, Wembanyama wasn’t physical enough inside of the three-point line. He settled for bad shots way too easily. Defensively, his rotations out on the perimeter left a lot to be desired. Was he tired due to playing in his first back-to-back? Yeah, that probably did play a role in his relatively poor performance, especially since he played 38 minutes in the overtime loss against the Raptors. And though the Spurs didn’t play well with Wembanyama on the court, they were an absolute train wreck when he was on the bench.
Johnson’s effort on offense was one of the few highlights for the good guys. When his teammates looked ready to roll over and die, Johnson kept battling. He ended up with an efficient 16 points in 23 minutes and also passed the ball reasonably well. That said, Johnson was definitely part of the problem on the defensive end.
Sochan had a game to forget. He was bad in all facets of the game. He tried to play defense early on but got in foul trouble. After he returned, his defensive intensity wasn’t there. Offensively, he didn’t do much of anything right. Sochan was 1-for-7 from the floor prior to garbage time and had only one assist even though he was the main ball-handler.
Collins was fine. He could have been a lot better on the boards and his pick-and-roll defense was lackluster. But he was 6-for-8 from the field, physical in the paint and authored a few smart passes. After a slow start to the season, Collins is rolling much better now.
Even though Branham played a team-high 28 minutes, he was mostly invisible. He didn’t do nearly enough on the offensive end. Branham had a few highlights but he was too content to lurk in the shadows. Defensively, the second year guard was one of the worst performers on the team — and that’s saying a lot on a night when the Spurs surrendered 152 points.
Against the Pacers, McDermott was San Antonio’s best player on the court. He played with purpose offensively and was great at finding space. When he wasn’t knocking down threes, he was surprising Indiana with his physicality or finding teammates with a precise pass. I even thought McDermott’s defense was better than usual.
This might have been the first game of the season in which Osman didn’t look comfortable. His rotations were wonky and his individual defense wasn’t good either. Offensively, he missed a couple chippies and looked unsure of himself at times. All that said, Osman did play hard despite the depressing circumstances.
The good: Jones’ passing was a breath of fresh air. There were stretches where it seemed like only Jones had both eyes open. The bad: Jones was too aggressive looking for his own shot. When he has teammates open, I’m not a big fan of Jones forcing up a jumper or a difficult floater. I also wasn’t too impressed by his lack of defensive intensity.
While the results weren’t always positive, I liked Bassey’s effort level. On defense, he’s never going to be an ace defender outside of the paint but he was at least making the right rotation on Monday night. He also tried hard on individual defense and played passing lanes well. That said, with all of his movement on defense, he failed to clean up on the glass. Offensively, Bassey had his pluses and minuses. He hit all five of his field goal attempts but was also clogging the lane by being unaware of cutters and drivers.
I hate to say it but Champagnie looked bad. His transition defense was really poor, his closeouts were undisciplined and his help was late. Offensively, Champagnie forced the issue. Hopefully he can get back on track soon because the Spurs could use the outside shooting he displayed at the end of last season.
Graham played his first minutes of the season. He was active on defense — especially relative to his teammates. He didn’t make a shot on the other end but got to the line and shared the ball.
Sure, it was garbage time but Mamukelashvili looked pretty good. He was flying around the court on both ends while making smart plays. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when he gets real minutes this season at some point.
Barlow was only 1-for-4 from the field but he was much more physical on offense than usual.
Playing in front of friends and family in Indiana, Wesley did pretty well. He didn’t have a turnover and his shot-selection was acceptable.
With as bad as the defense was early on, Pop probably should have gone deeper into his bench to find working combinations. The playcalling also wasn’t doing the team many favors, as the Spurs had to scratch and claw to put their points on the board.