Grades: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets – Game #11

The San Antonio Spurs fell to 5-6 on the season following a 115-109 defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets (7-3). The Spurs rallied in the fourth quarter but weren’t quite able to hold on.

With ten minutes remaining, the Spurs were down by seven points. That’s when Tre Jones entered the game and sparked a 12-4 run that gave San Antonio the lead. During that stretch, Jones either scored or assisted on each Spurs basket. 

With four minutes remaining, the good guys were still in the lead. Unfortunately, the Spurs had four costly turnovers down the stretch. Conversely, the talented Nuggets squad successfully executed their offense in crunch time. When the smoke cleared, San Antonio was saddled with their fourth straight loss.

Despite the loss, I thought the Spurs played really well. They competed, they played together and they gave themselves a chance to win. But, as it turned out, 24 turnovers was simply too many to overcome — especially with Denver’s big guns hitting on all cylinders down the stretch. 

Spurs vs. Nuggets – Final Grades

Keldon Johnson

Johnson played really well once again. Offensively, he was too loose with the ball in crowds, which led directly to a season-high six turnovers. Other than those miscues, though, Johnson was special. He finished with 30 points while shooting 7-for-9 on two-pointers and 5-for-11 on three-pointers. He has stepped into the go-to scorer role and is making it look easy. Johnson’s shooting stroke looks fantastic and his touch around the rim is superb. The 23-year-old is now averaging 23.8 points per game. 

Grade: A-

Devin Vassell

After a pair of sizzling performances, Vassell came back down to earth a bit tonight. However, he still hit three three-pointers, created with the ball in his hands and once again looked fully capable of being a first or second option when he’s on the court. While Vassell’s offense wasn’t efficient versus the Nuggets, I thought this was one of his better defensive games of the season. He was moving well, providing timely help and using his long arms to wreak havoc. 

Grade: B+

Tre Jones

You can make a strong argument that Jones was the best player on the Spurs tonight. Offensively, he authored a handful of timely baskets; when the Spurs really needed something to go right, they put the ball in his hands. Jones was also excellent passing-wise and his speed was game-changing. This season, he has missed a lot of leaners and runners that he was hitting consistently last season. This evening, he seemed to rediscover his touch in the lane on his way to a career-high 20 points. Defensively, Jones had issues trying to defend Jamal Murray again but was an energetic pest when able to swoop in from the weakside. 

Grade: A

Jakob Poeltl

The good: Poeltl had five or six fantastic plays on the defensive end. He stood tall around the rim and was quick to offer protection when needed. Offensively, he operated well from the high-post and his court vision was outstanding. As a result, Poeltl finished with a career-high nine assists. The bad: Poeltl was oddly quiet on the offensive end. He had no offensive rebounds and only three shot attempts in 32 minutes. The passing was great but the Spurs would have been aided if he applied more pressure scoring-wise. Defensively, there were a few possessions where he didn’t play with enough oomph.

Grade: B

Jeremy Sochan

Sochan’s numbers don’t look like much to write home to England about but he did a few important things. Primarily, his ability to defend Murray allowed Jones to avoid that difficult matchup. A rookie power forward picking up a veteran point guard on defense is not something you see very often. Sochan also gave the Spurs some much needed size and athleticism in the paint. Sadly, his offense is regressing. He doesn’t want to shoot threes, which really hurts the spacing. He can handle the ball and make passes well for a big man but he needs to be more of a threat than he is on that end to have a fruitful NBA career. Thankfully, the 19-year-old has plenty of time to get there.

Grade: C

Josh Richardson

Like Johnson, Richardson played really well if you ignore the six turnovers. Unfortunately, Richardson’s turnovers were more costly than Johnson’s. He played both backup shooting guard and backup point guard tonight. Richardson looked much better playing off the ball as a floor spacer or as a secondary playmaker. His 22 points were a leading reason why the Spurs were able to keep it close but, ultimately, he made too many mistakes for him to be too jazzed with how he played.

Grade: B

Doug McDermott

McDermott had a few productive stretches but when the game got tight and the bright lights were beaming down, the Nuggets were able to take away his scoring opportunities by keying in on him. I liked McDermott’s effort on both ends but by the end of the game, he wasn’t capable of doing enough on offense to justify his defensive shortcomings.

Grade: B-

Charles Bassey

In two games with the Austin Spurs, Bassey had 52 points, 25 rebounds and eight blocks in 53 minutes. Tonight, with Zach Collins sidelined, he was given the backup center job. Considering the circumstances, I thought Bassey played really well. His rebounding was great and he was conscientious about protecting the rim. Bassey also passed the eye-test in terms of him being able to defend out on the perimeter, which is very important in today’s game. He also looked comfortable making passing decisions on offense, which is also important for modern day centers. All in all, I saw enough to believe that Bassey has a legitimate path to becoming a full-time backup center in the NBA.

Grade: A-

Keita Bates-Diop

Bates-Diop had a few productive possessions when plays broke down and he was able to make something out of nothing. However, he also had a few ragged possessions that negatively impacted the flow of the game for the good guys.

Grade: C+

Isaiah Roby

Roby got two minutes of playing time before he fouled a three-point shooter and was promptly reintroduced to the bench. 

Grade: Inc.

Pop

I loved that Pop gave Bassey a chance to play real minutes. He could have gone with Dieng but opted to give the youngster 16 valuable minutes. In the long run, I think Pop playing Sochan 28 minutes will help his development. It’s ugly on the offensive end right now but Sochan is learning so much on defense that it’s worth the unsightliness. Overall, I didn’t have an issue with Pop’s rotation and it felt like he got out all he could from his guys tonight.

Grade: A-