It was another disappointing ending at the Frost Bank Center on Friday night. The San Antonio Spurs led for the majority of the game but ended up losing to the New Orleans Pelicans by a final score of 114-113.
The Spurs got off to a hot start and held a 33-24 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The Spurs kept it rolling in the second quarter and into the third. Unfortunately, San Antonio’s offense began to sputter late in the third quarter and New Orleans was able to tie the game at 88-88 heading into the final stanza.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Spurs trailed by four points. While things looked bleak, the good guys responded with an 8-0 run to take a 106-102 lead.
Sadly, San Antonio’s youth was painfully obvious down the stretch. From rushed shots to missed free throws, and from poor clock management to missed passes, the Spurs simply were incapable of finishing off the Pelicans. An impressive Zion Williamson layup with three seconds remaining put New Orleans up for good.
All in all, the end of the game was frustrating. The Spurs played well for a lot of the game but their immature brand of basketball in crunch time ended up costing them the win.
Stats: Spurs vs. Pelicans
Spurs vs. Pelicans – Final Grades
The good: Wembanyama was 7-for-11 from two-point range. I liked his shot-selection and his touch is seemingly improving on a nightly basis. He was great on the offensive glass and authored a handful of outstanding passes. His court vision is legitimately expansive. Wembanyama also notched one of his clutchest blocks of the season down the stretch. The bad: Wembanyama’s sloppiness is impossible to ignore. He mostly makes good decisions but there are times when all you can do is scratch your head. Against the Pelicans, he looked off-balance when shooting threes and could have been more physical in the paint when attempting shots. His rim protection throughout was decent but wasn’t up to his lofty standards.
I have to start at the end. Yes, Vassell should have thrown the alleyoop to Wembanyama on the final play instead of launching the three-pointer. It wouldn’t have been an easy pass but it was clearly what he needed to do. Ignoring that fatal mistake, Vassell was pretty darn good. His three-point shooting looked great and his self-creation skills really shined. That said, passing was never a strength tonight — even before the last possession. Defensively, he was solid and had a couple of applause-worthy hustle plays.
Sochan’s three-pointers were extremely unsightly — the sideways spin was more intense than usual. But other than his outside shooting and a few sporadic miscues, Sochan was really good. He brought energy to the defensive end, rebounded with ferocity on both ends and drove the ball to the basket with power. When Sochan is playing like this, he’s a very valuable cog in the wheel. Unfortunately, he had a couple missed free throws late in the fourth quarter that put a damper on his evening.
Jones was able to put 20 points on the scoreboard via hustle plays, transition opportunities and scoring when the opponent was preoccupied. I liked his aggressiveness — even though he was only 1-for-5 on three-pointers. Passing-wise, Jones was average. He made a lot of correct passes but he also uncharacteristically turned it over four times. Defensively, his intensity was dialed up to the max and he was hungry when chasing down loose balls.
Good stuff. It was no accident that Champagnie played a season-high 30 minutes. Defensively, he was much, much better than usual. He was physical, protected the rim and competed with his entire being. Champagnie is usually an average defender at best but tonight he was a high-quality asset on that end. Offensively, he missed all four three-pointers but his movement, smarts and aggression allowed him to find ways to help the cause.
Collins was back in the lineup after sitting out a couple games due to ankle soreness. He was okay-ish. The good: Collins wasn’t shy about attempting difficult passes — and they mostly worked out well. His nine points helped steady the ship when Wembanyama sat. The bad: Collins’ rebounding was terrible. His interior defense wasn’t much better. Offensively, he sometimes inadvertently stalled San Antonio’s sets.
Osman’s activity on defense was plain to see. He was consistently in passing lanes and even altered shots at a higher than normal clip. Offensively, Osman simply didn’t shoot well enough. He was 1-for-6 from the field and made matters worse by turning it over twice. Osman also missed a couple potential passes he needed to make.
With Keldon Johnson out again, that opened a spot in the rotation for Branham. Though he wasn’t great, he moved the needle in the right direction. Branham did well being a constant scoring threat while also making the right pass when it became available. Defensively, he didn’t do a whole lot right. But, then again, Branham has never been known for his defense.
After a clunky performance last game, Wesley bounced back with a very solid outing. It’s clear that he deserves to be the backup point guard right now. When it comes to passing the ball, he has a really good natural feel. He was making plays tonight even when he only had a split second to ponder what to do. Wesley also didn’t turn the ball over and hit half of his shots. Defensively, he once again provided a spark.
McDermott hit a pair of three-pointers early in the fourth quarter that really helped get the Spurs going. Unfortunately, though, his defense was worse than usual and his passing could have been a lot better. McDermott was too often making the easiest pass instead of the correct pass. The shooting is helpful but he needs to be more well-rounded to be a positive influence in the fourth quarter of close games.
The coaching was fine. I liked Pop’s defensive gameplan. Offensively, more plays for Wembanyama would have been appreciated. It felt like the Spurs went away from their big guy for stretches at a time. In terms of the rotation, I thought it was good. I agreed with Champagnie getting extra minutes and giving Branham a chance makes sense when you ponder the big picture.