Grades: San Antonio Spurs vs. Philadelphia 76ers – Game #53
The San Antonio Spurs dropped their eighth straight game on Friday night in the AT&T Center. The Spurs and the Philadelphia 76ers were locked in a back and forth affair for the first quarter and a half. But midway through the second period, the Sixers went on an 18-4 run in a span of four minutes to blow the game open. The good guys tried to fight back but ultimately lost the game by a final count of 137-125.
Looking at the box score, you might wonder how the Spurs lost a game in which they shot 58.4% from the floor. Well, two reasons: First, the Sixers hit 13-of-27 three-pointers. Second, Philadelphia shot 41 free throws — compared to only 15 for San Antonio.
All in all, the Spurs shouldn’t be too upset with how they played. They successfully stayed within striking distance. In fact, Doc Rivers was forced to bring his starters back into the game late in the fourth quarter because the end of the Spurs bench rallied enough to make the Sixers sweat.
Spurs vs. 76ers – Final Grades
For the most part, this was another in a long line of similar games for Johnson. He’s not hitting three-pointers but he’s operating well within the arc. Take out his three-point attempts tonight and he scored 18 points on 5-for-9 shooting. Johnson’s hard-nosed finishing in the paint was impressive. What wasn’t impressive was his passing. Johnson missed a handful of open teammates on his forays to the rim. Defensively, the effort level was slightly higher than usual but he still struggled on that end.
It was an odd game for Poeltl. During the contest, he could usually be found stumbling around or fumbling the ball. He also had little hope when defending Joel Embiid, who finished with 33 points on 10-for-18 shooting. That said, Poeltl was statistically productive. His teammates were looking for him a lot more than usual and he had 16 points in 24 minutes. He was also strong on the boards and made heady passes. This was far from a clean game from Poeltl but he was active and found himself in the middle of a lot of the action.
Branham’s previous career-high didn’t last long. One game after scoring 22 points, Branham raised the bar by scoring 26 points against the Sixers. Scoring-wise, he was silky smooth. His midrange game is super fluid and it seems to come naturally to him. He can create space to get to his shots with ease. Branham moves well with and without the ball. His ball-handling and passing were looser than usual against Philadelphia but he did okay starting at point guard in place of the injured Tre Jones. Defensively, he competed. Branham had a few glaring mistakes but he was usually in the right spots. Overall, the rookie is developing nicely and is getting great experience.
With Devin Vassell and Romeo Langford sidelined, Richard started at shooting guard. I thought he did really well. He played hard on defense and made timely switches. Offensively, he shouldered a lot of the playmaking duties and finished with a team-high seven assists; Richardson was basically the point guard during halfcourt sets. His shooting helped space the court and he kept mistakes to a minimum. Well played game by Richardson.
With Jeremy Sochan out due to injury, Keita Bates-Diop was the starting power forward. He did about as well as could have been expected. He was much more active on defense than normal. His double-teaming was almost always on time and he also played solid individual defense. Offensively, Bates-Diop scored 13 points and only missed two shots. His craft, footwork and deft finishing were all impressive. The only negative thing I have to say about Bates-Diop was his passing. He’s usually not a good passer but he especially struggled in that department tonight. He either missed clear lanes or was slow with passes whenever he caught the ball on the perimeter.
It was great to see Johnson bounce back from a series of duds. He rediscovered his mojo and was flying around on both ends. Defensively, his guarding of the perimeter was by far the best on the team. Offensively, Johnson used his strength to his advantage and also authored a number of smart passes. Finishing without a turnover is an important number to highlight considering Johnson tends to struggle with turnovers. Let’s hope he can carry forward this level of play.
I wasn’t too impressed with McDermott at all. He was disastrous on the defensive end. He was particularly bad in transition — but wasn’t much better in the halfcourt. Offensively, he was forcing the issue too much. McDermott didn’t shoot poorly but he could have mixed in more passes instead of trying to take matters into his own hands.
Yes, Wesley made mistakes. A lot of mistakes. Hell, there was a stretch where he was making a mistake every time up the court. That said, the rookie’s flashes tonight were awesome to see. His first step is lightning fast. He can get to the rim just about whenever he wants. He needs to play with more touch and more thoughtfulness but the physical tools are there. Wesley was playing backup point guard and his court vision was a strength, I thought. His decision-making was wonky at times but he can see the floor … even when he’s zooming 100 miles per hour. Wesley has a lot to work on but he definitely looks like someone worth investing playing time in going forward.
A lot like Poeltl, Collins didn’t have the most aesthetically-pleasing outing. Embiid and the rest of the Sixers basically used him as a speed bump on the way to the rim. Thankfully, Collins retained some value by rebounding, passing well and being a consistent threat on offense. He didn’t play well overall but he also wasn’t a complete disaster out there.
Roby played the game’s final ten minutes. I thought he actually played really well. His athleticism was helpful in transition and in the paint. Roby was also much more decisive than usual and wasn’t overthinking matters.
Barlow played the final seven minutes of the contest. He too exhibited interesting strengths. He’s big, he can run, he can jump and he moves with fluidity. It looks like his basketball knowledge has really grown after his time with the Austin Spurs. Barlow took a jumper and — it wasn’t a pretty sight. But, hey, at least he shot it. Barlow remains a long shot to make it but he at least moves like an NBA player.
This wasn’t exactly a fair fight. Add the free throw discrepancy and winning the game was basically impossible. Given the circumstances, I thought Pop coached well. He gave Branham and Wesley a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. I also liked how he kept the fourth stringers out there after they closed the gap in the closing minutes. They deserved the opportunity to try to finish off what would have been the most improbable comebacks in recorded sporting history.