The San Antonio Spurs almost got their first win of the season when playing without Victor Wembanyama, who was out due to rest purposes. Unfortunately, the good guys came up just short and the Charlotte Hornets were able to escape with a 124-120 victory. The Spurs dropped to 7-34, while the Hornets improved to 9-30.
In the first three periods, the Hornets basically led the whole way by about five points. The Spurs would make a run here or there but Charlotte was quick to get back in front. Sometimes San Antonio would stumble before battling back.
The fourth quarter was very similar. The Spurs entered the period down by 12 points but they roared back to take the lead. The Hornets responded and led by nine points with five and a half minutes remaining. But, again, the Spurs came storming back. With a minute to go, San Antonio was within a point.
Sadly, the Silver and Black would get no closer. They turned the ball over with an opportunity to take the lead and then missed a three-pointer with a chance to tie with 17 seconds remaining.
Tomorrow, Wembanyama will be back in uniform when the Spurs try to defeat the Washington Wizards on the second night of a back-to-back.
Stats: Spurs at Hornets
Spurs at Hornets – Final Grades
Coming into this game, Vassell was 1-for-18 on three-pointers in his last three games. Against the Hornets, he did a good job of busting out of that shooting slump. While I still didn’t love his shot-selection, he hit 4-of-8 three-pointers on his way to 17 points on 13 field goal attempts. That said, the best part of his offensive attack was his passing — particularly on the move. Vassell had seven assists while keeping his mistakes to a minimum. Defensively, he could have been better in transition but he was stout in the halfcourt setting.
Outside of a couple spells of sloppiness, Sochan did really well. Offensively, he handled secondary playmaking really well. His ability to make good passes even when he was seemingly out of control was impressive tonight. Sochan used his size well when scoring the ball in the lane and when defending smaller opponents. Overall, his defense was a plus. There were mistakes — and he needs to clean things up on both ends of the court — but Sochan also authored many of San Antonio’s best defensive plays.
It was a bit of a strange outing for Jones. For the first three quarters, he wasn’t looking to score much and he wasn’t creating plays for his teammates. He was pushing the pace adequately but his passing wasn’t leading to quality shots. In the fourth quarter, Jones got it going scoring-wise. He had 12 points in the final period, including a pair of three-pointers. Defensively, I thought Jones was solid for a majority of the evening. All in all, though, Jones contributing more tangible production throughout the contest would have been really helpful.
After missing approximately three weeks with an ankle injury, Collins was back in the lineup. He had his ups and downs starting in place of Wembanyama. He started the game with a pair of bad passes that led to turnovers. Collins eventually found a groove and was able to attack Charlotte’s tiny starting five. Going for 16 points in his return was a plus and he able to carry the team for a couple minutes here and there. That said, he could have done more. The Hornets were playing really small so Collins should have done better work on the boards and could have scored even more on the interior. He also had a late offensive foul that really hurt the team’s cause.
Baby steps. Champagnie has found it difficult to score lately when in the starting lineup but it seems he may be turning the corner. He’s doing more than just waiting around beyond the three-point arc and that’s predictably leading to more all-around production on offense. Champagnie also had a handful of strong defensive possessions in Charlotte.
Johnson was clearly the best player on the court for the Spurs. He got 13 points in the first quarter to get San Antonio going. His three-point jumper looked smooth and he was smartly mixing in bruising drives to the hoop. His passing was a plus and he had only one turnover despite being hounded by a thicket of defenders. On the other end, Johnson’s concentration and effort were at higher levels than usual. His defense could have been better but his heart was in it, at least.
Barlow is really blossoming on the offensive end. He hit a three-pointer for a second straight game. He nailed other perimeter jumpers while showing off a feathery touch. Barlow has pretty good passing instincts and understands the game well on that end. Defensively, he needs to be a bit more explosive in his movements but there are flashes that show it’s possible for him to thrive.
Wesley’s growth from last season remains remarkable. Versus Charlotte, his finishing in the paint was excellent. He’s no long flinging the ball at the rim and hoping for the best. Wesley also had a few outstanding passes and his speed in transition was a difference-maker. Defensively, he was really good. Wesley pressured the ball and his lightning quick reflexes allowed him to continuously pester.
Osman did his job by bringing energy, bringing physicality and being relentless in transition. Osman nailed his only three-point attempt, provided aid on the glass and limited his miscues. When Osman remains under control and doesn’t lose focus on defense, he’s a valuable cog to a bench unit.
McDermott was trying to do too much. It appeared he was frustrated that he couldn’t get open so he instead hoisted a couple of ill-advised shots. McDermott did have a couple good passes but his lack of patience on offense hurt the team. Defensively, he wasn’t terrible but he also wasn’t better than usual.
Branham got the first crack at the backup point guard minutes. But after doing very little during his eight minutes on the court, the coaches turned to Wesley as the backup point guard.
A longer leash for Wesley would have been appreciated. Pulling the plug quicker on McDermott likely would have helped. I thought the play-calling was mostly good — although even more pounding it into the paint could have caused the Hornets to pay for going so small.