The San Antonio Spurs ended up losing to the Houston Rockets on Monday night by a final count of 99-89. The loss dropped the Spurs to 1-2 in preseason action, while the Rockets improved to 3-0.
Honestly, though, the final score is a bit deceiving. San Antonio led by 14 points with 11 minutes remaining in the game. With 6:20 left in the fourth quarter, the Spurs were still up 87-81. Unfortunately, the Rockets outscored the Spurs 18-2 the rest of the way. Both teams were rolling with deep bench players at that point of the game.
Before the late collapse, the Spurs were playing pretty well. That said, the most notable aspect of this game is who wasn’t playing for the Silver and Black: Victor Wembanyama, Devin Vassell and Tre Jones. All three players were sitting out for rest purposes.
Spurs vs. Rockets Stats
Spurs vs. Rockets – Final Grades
After missing the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury, Johnson made his debut against the Rockets. I liked his defensive intensity and he showed no hesitation on his three-point shots. Johnson was rusty when taking the ball to the basket. His ball-handling, specifically, isn’t yet in regular season form.
Sochan started at point guard for the second straight game. The good: His size on the perimeter was bothersome on the defensive end. His reading of the passing lanes was excellent. On offense, his movement off the ball was good and he knocked down a three with improved mechanics. The bad: It’s difficult to praise a starting point guard who finishes with zero assists. His ball-handling was iffy and he didn’t make many plays. Overall, Sochan rarely looked comfortable tonight.
Collins was the best player on the court in the first two quarters. He had all 18 of his points before halftime. He was strong on the boards and passed the ball really well. Collins didn’t hesitate when shooting threes and he finished with determination and power in the lane. All signs in preseason point to Collins having a breakthrough season this year.
Branham played well. Defensively, the sophomore was more active and attentive than usual. Offensively, he knocked down a pair of threes and created a few quality looks from off the dribble. Branham seemed to lose confidence during a couple of stretches but otherwise did well.
Osman has been a big winner during preseason play for the Spurs. He has done all he could to lock down a spot in the rotation. It’s actually his defense that has been the most impressive. Osman has been active on and off the ball and he has been stout on the glass. Offensively, he’s making heady decisions and is decisive whenever he touches the ball. Sure, it’s only preseason, but it looks like Osman is capable of making winning plays in San Antonio’s system.
If Osman has been a big winner, Champagnie has been the opposite. In three games, he’s now 3-for-21 from the field and 2-for-17 on three-pointers. After his strong finish last season and his productive showing in summer league, it’s surprising to see Champagnie struggle so much. He might be forcing a shot here or there but, for the most part, I don’t have an issue with his shot-selection. Let’s hope he can fix things sooner than later.
McDermott struggled on both ends. On defense, he was a step behind the action. On offense, it was difficult for him to gain separation against an athletic Houston squad. In all his actions, McDermott just looked really slow. Hopefully he’s just taking it easy in preseason.
Wesley efforted but the end result was just not good. I didn’t like his shot-selection; Wesley took too many contested shots. His touch was off from everywhere — even at the free throw line. Wesley had a few slick passes and played hard on defense but he did more harm than good on this night.
It looks like Graham is on the outside of the rotation at this point. Against the Rockets, Graham didn’t do anything to change a coach’s mind. He wasn’t terrible but he also wasn’t able to stem the bleeding when the team was desperate for a veteran to take the reins.
Bassey was involved in a lot of plays during his 12 minutes on the court but he didn’t do a whole lot of things right. He turned it over three times and was in the way more often than not on offense. The silver lining was Bassey’s work on the boards.
Hey, we got our first look at Birch, a 6-foot-8 center acquired in the Jakob Poeltl deal. Birch is a physical player who flashed more court vision than advertised. But, all told, I didn’t see anything out of him that makes it tempting to keep him around. He’s not mobile on defense and isn’t much of a threat on offense. Birch is a traditional center — and 6-foot-8 traditional centers aren’t too valuable in today’s game.
This was the first game I saw Mamukelashvili struggle during preseason. He was caught out of position on defense and had a few mistakes on offense. Mamukelashvili’s energy level was high but he needs to play a cleaner brand of basketball to crack the rotation.
The good: Cissoko’s passing just keeps getting better and better. His potential in that aspect of the game is exciting. He also has a lot of tools on the defensive end and finished with two impressive blocks during his nine minutes of action. The bad: Cissoko’s outside jumper looks like it needs a ton of work. He doesn’t get much elevation, the shot is flat and his form changes from shot to shot. Cissoko will also need to learn to avoid bad fouls if he’s going to play real minutes any time soon.
Of the bench bigs, Barlow looked the best. He was active in the paint and made quick decisions when he got the ball. Barlow only played seven minutes but his presence was felt.
I liked the extended look of Sochan at point guard. The chaotic bench rotation wasn’t helping matters but, yeah, it’s preseason. I guess it’s good that the Spurs got a look at Birch before they need to make the decision on whether to cut him or keep him.