After a successful five-game road trip, the San Antonio Spurs returned home to begin a nine-game homestand. Unfortunately, the first game of the homestand was a disappointment, as the Charlotte Hornets escaped the AT&T Center with a 100-97 victory.
The Hornets led by ten points at the end of the first quarter and the Spurs were never able to put together a sustained run. San Antonio played okay in spurts but Charlotte always had an answer. Overall, the Spurs seemed to lack the necessary energy and enthusiasm, while the Hornets, to their credit, played well and executed their gameplan.
With the game tied at 93-93 with 96 seconds remaining, Terry Rozier hit a three-pointer. Ultimately, the Spurs never recovered. With less than ten seconds remaining, Patty Mills had an open three-point try to tie the game — but it clanged off the rim.
The Spurs tied a season-low with 17 assists. San Antonio is now 3-8 on the season in games in which they total fewer than 22 assists.
Spurs vs. Hornets: Final Grades
After a really difficult game against the Milwaukee Bucks, White bounced back nicely against the Hornets. Defensively, he was feisty and made a handful of plays. Offensively, he didn’t hesitate about letting it fly from deep early and often — and that confidence paid dividends. He also mixed in a couple heady drives. Now, if White can regain his playmaking chops, he’d really be cooking with gas.
Offensively, DeRozan was really, really good. He hit 11-of-14 two-pointers, 6-of-7 free throws, handed out five assists and didn’t have a turnover on his way to a game-high 28 points. His physicality and footwork were both impressive. Defensively, DeRozan was really, really bad. The Hornets were picking on him — and were having great success in doing so. He was slow in isolations, lost track of his man multiple times and didn’t hustle in transition. The Spurs played great defense when DeRozan was on the bench but struggled to slow the Hornets when he was in the game. That wasn’t a coincidence.
It was just a strangely subdued game from Murray. Typically, if nothing else, Murray has been reliably about keeping his foot on the pedal. That wasn’t the case this evening. He was hesitant in his decision-making and rarely seemed to have a plan. Defensively, he was pretty good and hustled on the boards — but he was hardly a game-changer on that end, either.
Johnson struggled to string together positive possessions. He found lanes to the hoop at times but other times he was carelessly barreling into the paint. That said, I did like that he kept shooting threes, as the Hornets weren’t showing his outside jumper any respect. Defensively, I was underwhelmed. He had trouble staying in front of his man at times and wasn’t helping in the paint as much as usual.
The good: Poeltl was a beast on the boards and was defending the rim extremely well. He was also running the court hard both ways. The bad: His pick-and-roll defense wasn’t as good as usual, as his switches were too often late. Offensively, Poeltl had a hard time doing anything but get in the way.
Defensively, I liked Mills’ effort. He was pressuring his man and wasn’t giving up an inch. Offensively, the Spurs ran a lot of plays for him but he had trouble more trouble than usual locating open looks. In his defense, the Hornets were making it a point to stay on him at all times. That last second shot by Mills was a good look — he just didn’t knock it down.
Gay played hard, that’s can’t be questioned. Unfortunately, being slow and sloppy torpedoed a lot of his value. Defensively, his movements were painfully deliberate when switched off onto smaller players. Offensively, he hit a few big shots but he was too error-prone to rely on.
Vassell didn’t do much to move the needle tonight. He had a couple smart defensive rotations but that was about the extent of it.
Lonnie Walker IV
Walker didn’t play in the second half after spending a lot of the first half grimacing in pain. It looks like he’s dealing with some sort of wrist injury that gets exacerbated whenever he falls to the ground.
With the Hornets sagging relentlessly, Pop decided to go smaller.
James Borrego clearly got the better of Pop tonight. When the Spurs were on offense, the Hornets were clogging things up by leaving perimeter players not named Patty open — and the Spurs too infrequently made them pay. When the Spurs were on defense, Borrego repeatedly got his team good looks by taking advantage of DeRozan’s D, or lack thereof. Pop spent much of the night counterpunching but never really found a workable combination or plan of attack.
The Spurs now have a two-game losing streak and play the Los Angeles Clippers in their next two games. San Antonio needs at least a split to avoid a downward spiral.