The San Antonio Spurs saw their 2021-22 season come to an end with a 113-103 defeat in the NBA Play-In Tournament at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans. The Spurs kept it close for much of the first half despite not playing well. Their effectiveness started going further downhill late in the second quarter. By the start of the fourth quarter, San Antonio was in a 17-point hole.
To the Spurs credit, they battled back in the final period to make it a game. They got to within six points before things unraveled again and the Pelicans were able to pull away.
All in all, I was somewhat pleased with how the Spurs played. Their execution was poor but they played hard and didn’t show any quit. They had a chance to steal a road win in the fourth quarter — and that’s about all you could hope for with this youthful group in a pressure packed situation.
Spurs at Pelicans: Final Grades
To say Johnson got off to a slow start would be a colossal understatement. In the first half, he was 0-for-7 from the floor and appeared to be unsure of himself on both ends. In the third quarter, he eventually found a groove and his scoring touch returned. Unfortunately, he also started forcing the issue to a detrimental degree in the second half. That said, it was good to see Johnson recover from adversity and keep his energy level high.
Coming into this game, Vassell’s career-high in three-pointers made was five. Tonight, he nailed seven three-pointers on his way to leading San Antonio with 23 points. In the first half, Vassell’s four threes were arguably the primary reason the Spurs were able to keep it close. Defensively, Vassell got off to a slow start but picked it up and played solid D in the second half.
Murray found himself in precarious foul trouble early and that seemingly took him completely out of rhythm. Add in the fact that Murray was never able to shake off the rust after a late season illness caused him to miss five game and it’s not a shock that he struggled against the Pelicans. He tried hard, he made good passes, he rebounded the ball and his shot-selection was fine — but he just didn’t have it in terms of his shooting touch and the precision of his ball-handling. The Spurs needed Murray to be a star in order to advance to the playoffs — and that didn’t happen.
One of the biggest keys for Poeltl in this game was to avoid early foul trouble when going against Jonas Valanciunas. Regrettably, Poeltl got in early trouble, just as feared. To his credit, though, Poeltl bounced back and played well once he reentered the game. He remained aggressive on offense and was a consistent threat. Defensively, he was really good out on the perimeter and more than adequate in the interior.
Primo started the ballgame but only got ten minutes. He had a couple fine passes and a few positive defensive plays. Pop turned to veterans as the game progressed so Primo watched from the sidelines.
Richardson played 32 minutes off the bench and I thought he did well. He shot the ball with confidence, handled some of the playmaking duties and played intense defense. Since coming over in the trade with the Boston Celtics, he’s been better than advertised. He’s a smart vet who plays hard and has a high basketball IQ.
Lonnie Walker IV
When the offense bogged down, Walker came to the rescue a handful of times. He ended up scoring 12 points in 17 minutes. Truthfully, I thought he should have played more. With the Spurs struggling to score, playing a guy who had it rolling on offense would have made sense. Walker’s decision-making in other facets wasn’t pristine but he was consistently efforting.
Collins had an up-and-down game. Defensively, he had difficulty defending out on the perimeter but he was physical in the paint and held up well against New Orleans’ size for the most part. Offensively, Collins had success posting up but was tentative out of pick-and-roll sets and he was a beat slow with his passes.
Jones drew a couple of offensive fouls, hit a three-pointer and ran the offense decently well. His hesitancy shooting the ball hurt at times and his playmaking wasn’t as good as we’ve witnessed as of late — but he did okay, all things considered.
Bates-Diop got six first half minutes — and didn’t do a whole lot. In the second half, Pop shortened the rotation and that Bates-Diop was the odd man out.