Grades: San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns – Game #24
The San Antonio Spurs dropped their 11th straight game on Sunday afternoon to fall to 6-18 on the season. After a reasonably close first quarter, the Phoenix Suns demolished the Spurs 36-11 in the second quarter on their way to a 133-95 annihilation.
I’ve liked the effort the Spurs have shown in a majority of their 11 consecutive losses. Today, though, was different. The good guys rarely even tried to compete with the Suns, who improved to 16-7 with the victory. San Antonio was atrocious on defense, one-dimensional on offense and basically coasted to a defeat while going through the motions.
The Spurs played this game without Jakob Poeltl, Jeremy Sochan, Doug McDermott, Josh Richardson and Pop.
Spurs vs. Suns – Final Grades
Johnson has struggled so much recently that this game has to be considered a step forward even though he scored 16 of his 27 points in the second half, which was essentially garbage time. He did better finishing in the paint and he hit a few floaters — but it’s difficult to find much else Johnson did right. He’s starting to lose confidence in his three-point shot, he has tunnel vision when he has the ball and he’s not playing much defense at all. Hopefully his 6-for-10 shooting in the second half will carry forward — but that’s far from a certainty.
I liked how Vassell played in the first quarter, which ended up being the only competitive quarter of the contest. He moved with confidence, took open shots and was playing a bit of defense. Unfortunately, his level of play dipped as the game progressed. By the end of the game, he was limping to the locker room. Let’s hope Vassell isn’t yet another Spurs player dealing with an injury that will force him to miss games.
I wasn’t too impressed with anything Jones did today. His playmaking was minimal, particularly in the halfcourt setting. He was more careless with the ball than usual, missed all three of his three-pointers and wasn’t impactful on the defensive end. When the Spurs are struggling as much as they were struggling against Phoenix, San Antonio needs Jones to be more than the basketball equivalent of a game manager at quarterback.
At first blush, you may look at Bates-Diop’s statistics and think that he had a good game. However, the truth is that almost all of his production came in garbage time. In the first half, he was terrible. At halftime, he had a missed shot and an offensive rebound in 19 minutes of action — that’s it and that’s all. For the Spurs to even compete with the Suns, they needed much, much more out of Bates-Diop.
It’s totally fair to say that Collins has been an utter failure as a starting center in Poeltl’s absence. For the second straight game, he battled persistent foul trouble. It’s not like Collins is playing great defense while racking up fouls. Instead, he’s play below average defense and picking up fouls due to either mistakes or him trying to further his tough guy reputation. Collins had a few nice passes in the second half but that didn’t come close to making up for the fact that he was useless during the meat of the game due to fouls.
The good: Branham’s play at point guard has been okay. He can dribble and pass pretty well, especially considering that’s not his position. Branham has illustrated craft on his drives to the lane. Defensively, he’s still sub par but he seems to be improving at a rapid rate. The bad: All of his jumpers are coming up short; Branham’s adjustment to the NBA three-point line hasn’t been pretty to watch. The Spurs could really use an offensive spark and Branham was drafted for his scoring ability … but we’re not seeing many glimpses that he’s close to being able to provide that kind of spark.
Like Collins, Bassey bumbled his way into early foul trouble. During his 18 minutes he was able to play, Bassey was decent-ish. He has good timing for rebounding and blocks — but everything else is a work in progress. Bassey plays hard but he’s not picking up advanced concepts as quickly as would be preferred.
This was a difficult outing for Roby. When he wasn’t missing three-pointers by a couple feet, he was blowing defensive assignments. Roby never found a rhythm and might have been the worst player on a team filled with poor performers.
Johnson did basically what you’d expect from an undersized big who needs to shake off some rust. It was interesting that he shot a couple three-pointers but his form was iffy, to put it gently.
The good: Dieng shot open shots and rebounded reboundable balls. The bad: Dieng was painfully slow on defense and managed three turnovers in 13 minutes.
Langford had a few impressive defensive possessions but his time on the court was short lived. He was questionable for the game due to lower back tightness and then left the game after turning his ankle.
The loss itself was understandable. The Suns are obviously a much better team. That said, this was a pathetic effort — even judging it against other losses this season. Brown deserves some blame for that.