The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Portland Trail Blazers for the second time this season to improve their record to 9-36. The loss dropped the Blazers to 13-32.
It was a back and forth affair for the first two and a half quarters. Neither team took a notable lead during that stretch. In the middle of the third quarter, the good guys went on an 18-4 run in the span of five minutes to take a 15-point lead. The Blazers never truly challenged again.
Overall, it was a good win. The Blazers were short-handed but San Antonio played tough and with purpose to get the win. The Spurs grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and forced the Blazers into a lot of difficult shots. That recipe got the job done.
Stats: Spurs vs. Blazers
Spurs vs. Blazers – Final Grades
Wembanyama’s shot-selection was wonky. He was sloppy with his dribbling and his passing was often errant. He messed up a handful of offensive sets by going the wrong way. All that said, Wembanyama is so good that he still had a positive impact on the game. Defensively, he made the Blazers second-guess any forays to the rim. He also rebounded well and his outlet passing was better than usual. Offensively, the rookie ran the court to gain position, was physical when it was needed and dropped in a trio of triples. Wembanyama still being good when he’s bad has to be a positive sign for the future.
Vassell’s effort level on defense was high. He could usually be found sprinting around on that end of the court while offering timely help. That extra vivacity on defense allowed Vassell to counteract his ho-hum offensive evening. He shot poorly from two-point land, three-point territory and the charity stripe. Vassell’s passing was also nothing special. But, all in all, his defense and knocking down a few timely shots was enough for me to classify this as a slightly positive outing.
Sochan was pretty darn great. Defensively, he was a beast. He was active out on the perimeter and this was clearly his best rebounding game of the season. Typically, Sochan is a substandard rebounder — but tonight he looked like his numbersake. Offensively, he poured in 31 points while shooting well across the board. Sochan shot threes with confidence, attacked the rim with power and smartly utilized athleticism in the lane. He’s not a natural playmaker but he’s getting good at finding ways to get downhill and then he’s making the right decision on the move.
After missing a game with an ankle injury, Jones was back and he was once more a difference-maker. He pushed the pace with wisdom, he authored nifty finishes at the hoop, knocked down a three-pointer and made the right passes in the halfcourt sets. Defensively, Jones wasn’t quite as electric as usual but he scooped up loose balls when given the opportunity. It remains clear that he should be the starting point guard for this team.
Champagnie was okay-ish. Typically, he’s not of much value if he doesn’t knock down at least one three-pointer, so it was good to still see him find ways to help without the help of the long ball. Champagnie was 2-for-2 on two-pointers, handed out three assists and did good work on the boards. The team’s starting small forward also limited his mistakes on both ends of the court.
Johnson played big body ball to bully the Blazers. He finished with eight offensive rebounds mostly due to his unrelenting determination. His 16 total rebounds were the main reason why the Spurs were able to outrebound the Blazers 59-37. When it came to putting the basketball in the basket, Johnson didn’t hit a three-pointer but his burly takes to the rim more than made up for that. If he can provide this type of all-encompassing performance dripping with physical domination, Johnson is the type of game-changer who can get a win almost by himself.
The good: Wesley quietly led the Spurs with eight assists in 24 minutes. As that statistic suggests, his passing was very good and he was hitting his teammates in the perfect spots. Add in the fact that he had only one turnover and Wesley couldn’t have played the backup point guard role on offense much better. Defensively, he got caught reaching and leaning a few times but overall he was very good. His quickness and his anticipation skills give him a high ceiling on that end. The bad: Wesley missed all five of his shots from the field. He had a missed dunk and a missed reverse layup, so it really wasn’t due to poor shot-selection. He just has to finish the good looks.
Osman did well. As is typical with him, he did a lot of his damage in transition. He ran the court extremely hard and helped get the Spurs some easy points on the break. I liked his defense and his effort on the boards. Osman got sloppy on a few possessions but the palpable amount of adrenaline he brought to the game certainly helped energize his teammates.
Ugh, Collins is struggling to put together anything close to a positive outing. Against the Blazers, he missed five of his six shots from the field, pulled down only one defensive rebounds and fouled four times in 18 minutes. Collins’ jumper looks flat, his explosiveness is missing in action and he seems to be getting winded easily. His defense is a liability right now and his offense might be worse.
McDermott shot the ball like he was trying to win a quick draw contest. He didn’t make any shots but his movement and suddenness opened some lanes for cutters. Defensively, McDermott held up better than usual.
Could Mamukelashvili ever get any of Collins’ minutes? I don’t think so … but maybe.
Good stuff from Pop. The rotation made sense. He yelled at Wembanyama when the rookie was doing careless rookie type things. The playcalls got everyone involved, beginning with Wembanyama. The attention to detail defensively was impressive.