Don’t look now but the 2023-24 San Antonio Spurs are on a roll. For the second straight game, the good guys enjoyed a blowout win. This time, San Antonio dismantled the Charlotte Hornets by a final score of 135-99.
The first quarter was a relatively close affair but the Spurs were consistently out in front. In the second half of the second quarter, San Antonio really got rolling. Then, to seal the game, Victor Wembanyama scored 11 points in the first three minutes of the third quarter. His three consecutive dunks during that stretch but an exclamation point on his team’s victory.
Sure, this modest two-game winning streak came against the worst team in the NBA record-wise and the fourth worst team. But it’s clear that San Antonio is playing its best basketball of the season. Specifically, Wembanyama is blossoming and his teammates are learning how to accentuate his strengths. Good stuff, good stuff.
Stats: Spurs vs. Hornets
Spurs vs. Hornets – Final Grades
It was another spectacular performance by Wembanyama. In only 20 minutes, the rookie out of France put on a show on his way to 26 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. When he wasn’t throwing down a hellacious dunk, he was sinking a silky smooth three. Wembanyama’s chemistry with his teammates is flourishing and he’s looking like an unstoppable force for stretches at a time. Overall, it’s clear he’s figuring out how to play in the NBA and it’s a wonder to behold.
I didn’t agree with Vassell’s shot-selection for the most part but he was able to make up for a handful of iffy decisions by authoring a number of very good passes. His defense was also impressive and he remained alert in transition situations. When Wembanyama has it rolling, Vassell doesn’t need to overdo things. He’s still learning that concept … and there have been positive strides lately.
Sochan is settling into a valuable role. His defense is getting better and better. He’s doing work early on that end and is playing with both smarts and physicality. Offensively, Sochan remains a herky-jerky option but his eventual niche is coming into view. He can score on drives, knock down open threes, cause chaos moving without the ball and he’s capable of handling a little bit of secondary playmaking. Against the Hornets, he was definitely a major force for good.
Jones didn’t try to do too much. Instead, he did just what the Spurs needed by getting Wembanyama involved early and often. Playing a heady brand of basketball, Jones finished with seven assists in 22 minutes and didn’t turn the ball over. Scoring-wise, he did just enough to keep the Hornets honest. Defensively, he applied pressure and got his hands dirty by digging down in the paint.
Champagnie’s fit in the starting lineup remains a work in progress. He shot the ball poorly once again and didn’t always seem sure of when he should pass and when he should fire away. The good news is he was more involved than usual on that end. Defensively, he was average.
This was the best Branham has looked as the backup point guard since returning from injury. That’s not saying a whole lot — but it’s a step in the right direction. He knocked down a pair of long balls, passed the ball well and kept the pedal to the metal. I also thought Branham’s defense was more impactful than normal.
Coming off the bench hasn’t dampened Johnson’s aggressiveness. If anything, it has only made him more aggressive. Against Charlotte, he was okay-ish. He ended up with an inefficient night at the office offensively. More drives and fewer three-point attempts likely would have aided his cause. Defensively, Johnson wasn’t as good as we’ve seen from him lately. That said, his leadership and enthusiasm were especially palpable, which should count for something.
Barlow hit only 1-of-4 field goal attempts and only half of his six free throws but the young backup center continues to take steps in the right direction. Defensively, while his lack of elite size is painfully apparent at times, he’s getting better and better at protecting the rim. This evening, his verticality during clashes in the paint was impressive. Offensively, while his touch took a night off, he attempted the right shots and played with the needed amount of toughness.
Wesley is showing quite a bit of growth in his sophomore season in the NBA. His finishing at the rim is much more skillful. Last season, he attacked the rim without a clue. This season, Wesley has a plan during his forays into the lane. Versus the Hornets, his passing was really good — especially on the move. Add in his zero in the turnover column and it’s safe to say this youngster is maturing before our eyes.
The good: Osman pumped in 11 points in 14 minutes and didn’t miss a shot from the field, including two attempts from downtown. He was feisty on the boards and ran the court hard on the break. The bad: Osman turned the ball over three times in his limited minutes and he also had a few mistakes defensively, including a needless foul when he had a help defender.
McDermott remained on fire against the Hornets. In 12 minutes, he scored 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting from three-point land. He also got fouled on another three-pointer and hit 2-of-3 freebies. His movement without the ball left Charlotte perplexed and got him open again and again. When McDermott is raining in shots from the perimeter, it makes those around him that much more difficult to defend — especially Wembanyama. Unfortunately, McDermott left the game prematurely with an ankle injury.
Graham was able to get in on the action during garbage time. His three-point shooting looked as lethal as ever.
Mamukelashvili was flying all over the court during his ten minutes of garbage time.
Diakite has been primarily known for his defensive potential during his basketball career. But against the Hornets, he looked like a scoring maestro with deft footwork and a soft touch.
There’s nothing for me to criticize Pop about. He got Wembanyama going early with a number of playcalls for his big man. His rotation made sense. His defensive gameplan worked. Pop appears to have stumbled into a starting lineup that he should keep for the foreseeable future.