Grades: San Antonio Spurs at Cleveland Cavaliers – Game #58

The San Antonio Spurs dropped their 13th consecutive ballgame on Monday night to fall to 14-44 on the season. The Cleveland Cavaliers got out to a big lead early and held on for a 117-109 victory. The Cavs won their seventh straight game and improved their record to 38-22.

In recent games, the Spurs have kept it close early before collapsing at some point in the second half. Tonight’s contest was the opposite. San Antonio trailed 34-19 after the first quarter and didn’t make up any ground in the second quarter.

The Spurs played a lot better in the third period and entered the fourth quarter trailing by ten points, 91-81. The good guys got within four points, 95-91, about three minutes into the final stanza on a Charles Bassey layup. While the Spurs successfully kept the game competitive, they would get no closer.

Overall, I thought the Silver and Black played well — particularly in the second half. They scratched, clawed and showed a healthy amount of relentlessness. 

Spurs at Cavaliers – Final Grades

spurs cavaliers grades

Keldon Johnson

Johnson continues his very strong offensive play. Against the Cavs, he even added back some three-point accuracy on his way to 25 points. Johnson shot well, ruggedly drove the ball to the lane and got to the free throw line 11 times. The Spurs couldn’t have asked for much more on the offensive end from their go-to scorer. Defensively, he could have been better. His slow rotations caused the D to break down a few times.

Grade: A-

Keita Bates-Diop

Bates-Diop was back in the starting lineup due to the absence of Tre Jones. I thought he did well. He’s playing with more smarts and more desperation as of late. Bates-Diop was sometimes out of control but I mostly liked his long-limbed forays to the paint. He also passed it well, rebounded it well and tried hard defensively. When Bates-Diop keeps his foot on the gas, he’s a productive player who can make good things happen.

Grade: B+

Zach Collins

Collins finished with 11 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes. Honestly, though, he wasn’t as good as his numbers look on paper. He had some good passes but he also had his share of poor passes. Defensively and on the glass, I thought he could have done more. Specifically, Collins struggled to hold his ground in the paint, which caused more problems than usual going up against a tall, long Cavs squad. All in all, Collins was productive — and there’s definitely value in that. But he needs to do a better job of taking care of the small things in order for the Spurs to feel comfortable about him being the long-term starter at center.

Grade: B-

Malaki Branham

As of late, Branham has either been on fire or has struggled. Tonight, it was the former. He scored 18 points — and he made it look effortless. He hit 8-of-11 shots from the field, including 2-of-3 three-pointers. His pull-up jumper off the dribble is money. Branham is also an excellent cutter away from the ball, which isn’t an attribute said often about a rookie. I thought his defense was better than usual — other than a few needless fouls.

Grade: A-

Jeremy Sochan

Sochan never found a rhythm against the Cavs. He was only 4-for-12 from the field and missed both of his threes (to be fair, though, the three-pointers were desperation shots at the end of quarters). He did well on the offensive glass but was weak on the defensive glass. His playmaking was muted and he too often got caught without a dribble and nowhere to go. Chalk this game up as a learning experience for Sochan.

Grade: C-

Devonte’ Graham

Graham was super active — and that led to both good and bad outcomes. Good: Graham successfully broke down the defense and passed it well, which led him to a team-high eight assists. He’s a really good ball-handler who uses changes of speed very well. He was also a blur on defense; Graham is small but he’s physical enough to survive on that end. Bad: Graham’s shot-selection could have been better, to put it gently. Sometimes he had no choice to fire a contested shot due to the clock situation — but he still has work to do in that area. Graham also dribbled too much when a simple pass would have done the job better.

Grade: B-

Blake Wesley

Man, Wesley had a handful of ugly possessions but you could really see his potential tonight. Defensively, his elite physical tools give him the ability to be a big-time asset on that end. He’s long, he moves his feet well and he has good anticipation. Offensively, he’s extremely fast in the open court and he has a surprising amount of court vision. Wesley is still a neophyte in his growth as a basketball player but the flashes he exhibited against the Cavs hint at his high ceiling.

Grade: B-

Dominick Barlow

I like Barlow. He’s not the most skilled kid yet but there are some intriguing intangibles. He doesn’t give up on plays, he battles through contact and he communicates on defense. Barlow is also a plus athlete with a quick second jump, which is very useful in the paint. The 19-year-old hit a jumper late in the game and he knows when and where to pass, which is more than you can say about a lot of bigs. I hope we get to see more of him going forward.

Grade: B+

Charles Bassey

Bassey played his first NBA game in five weeks. Athletically, he looked rusty. He wasn’t moving or jumping as well as we saw earlier in the season. That said, he was still impactful in Cleveland. The Cavs are a supersized team and Bassey’s presence helped level the playing field in the middle. He was great on the boards, flashed supple hands and his interior help defense was a major plus. Bassey could have finished better on offense and defended better on the perimeter — but his forcefulness in the paint made a difference and it was a reminder of what the Spurs haven’t had since he was last with San Antonio five weeks ago.

Grade: B+ 

Isaiah Roby

Roby got a few minutes, made a few mistakes and was then reintroduced to the bench. 

Grade: Inc.


Good stuff from Pop. Running plays through Johnson and Branham was smart and effective. I liked the rotation, particularly in terms of letting the youngsters play meaningful minutes. Specifically, Pop allowed Wesley to quarterback important possessions in the fourth. Barlow and Bassey also got pressure minutes. Speaking of which, I’m glad Pop found minutes for both Barlow and Bassey off the bench. 

Grade: A-