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Vassell, Johnson shine as the Spurs fall to the Nuggets

Big nights for Vassell, Johnson and Poeltl not enough as the Nuggets out-execute the Spurs, winning 126-101

By: Lucas Oliva I Nov. 6, 2022, 3:40 pm EST

Rookie Malaki Branham bring the ball up the court for the Spurs. (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Spurs went into Denver off the first half of a back-to-back looking to make up for their late game collapse in a loss to the Clippers. The Nuggets however, would shoot a scorching 61% from the field in a 25 point victory against the struggling Spurs. Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson were the bucket-getters in the first quarter, both having 8 points to their name at the end of the period. Despite the early scoring activity from this duo, Jamal Murray would start the game with 9 points on perfect efficiency. On top of that, scoring punches from Gordon, Caldwell-Pope and the Nuggets bench was too much for the Spurs to handle, leaving them down 13 to end the first quarter.

Jakob Poeltl would continue his strong scoring effort into the second quarter, giving the Spurs their first 6 points. Keldon would continue with a strong drive to the rim, followed by 8 straight points by Vassell. These efforts to no avail though, as the Nuggets never let the 13 point lead dwindle as Jokic stepped up his aggressiveness and the Nuggets bench continued to play extremely efficiently. This second quarter really allowed the Nuggets to pull away, with Vassell, Johnson, Poeltl and Bates-Diop being the only scorers (and not in the way where it was an absolute takeover by them). The Spurs would find themselves down 19 going into the half.

The Spurs started looking strong in the third quarter, chipping the Nuggets lead down to 15 with efforts from the rookie duo of Sochan and Branham, as well as Johnson doing his thing with strong drives to the rim. Much like the second quarter however, Jokic started to go to work, scoring at the rim at will. A much more concerning side effect of this was that the Nuggets started their barrage of three-pointers once more, lighting the arena on fire. Most notably, Bones Hyland began to get into his groove, which was not something you want to see from a young player that’s struggled to get into a rhythm to start the season. Continued makes from Vassell and Johnson simply wasn’t enough to hold off the Nuggets red-hot offense, as the Spurs went into the fourth quarter down 23.

As the trend has shown, Vassell and Johnson both contributed their share of the scoring to start the fourth quarter. Bones Hyland had other plans though, showing off his shot-making skills and ability to fuel a bench unit, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter. Outside of Vassell and Johnson, the brightest spot in the fourth quarter would have to be Sochan knocking down his one and only three in the game! Unfortunately, the Spurs were handed their third straight loss, and fall to 5-5 on the season.

The Starters

For the most part, all starters played well and did their part. Tre Jones struggled mightily from the field, shooting a rough 2-7 (28%) from the field. While his looks didn’t look bad by any means, he just wasn’t knocking them down. On the bright side with Tre, his playmaking continues to impress, making multiple entry passes to Poeltl for easy buckets. On the topic of Poeltl, despite looking great in the first half, he would then go scoreless in the second half. This is partly because the defense started to zone in on him more, but also because we saw less plays being run for Jakob specifically, having him as the usual top of the key passer that we normally see him play. As mentioned in the last article, Jakob struggles against big centers, and Jokic put that on full display, basically scoring whenever he felt like it. All in all not a terrible game for Jakob, just things that need to continue to develop. Johnson had a quiet 25 on good efficiency! He still has some of that head-down tunnel-vision from last year which isn’t great, but overall he’s showing much more court awareness and is showing off signs of playmaking prowess.

The Bench

Bench production was solid tonight. We saw a decent game from Richardson, which was sorely missed against the Clippers. Bates-Diop continues to serve as a passable bench piece, really doing the little things and being a good finisher at the rim. Dieng and Roby got increased minutes due to Collins being out with injury, and they looked solid. Dieng knocking down a three and just being a physical presence in the paint, although a bit slow and flatfooted. Roby played well, posting 7 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in just 16 minutes of playing time. His efficiency could’ve been better, but he looked like one of our better players last night. McDermott struggled, and couldn’t get his shot to fall unfortunately as his shooting would have been huge for the Spurs who struggled to create consistent quality looks. Finally, - and most importantly - Vassell came off the bench again with a minutes restriction. Even though he’s still recovering and getting back into the rhythm of the game, he played yet another great game for us. While he missed his first couple of attempts in the first quarter, he came alive in the second and third quarter, scoring 18 of his 20 points in that period. Just like Keldon, this was done on great efficiency, shooting a nice 58% from the field. Vassell continues to show just how important he is to the future of this Spurs team.

The Rookies

While Sochan still isn’t a scorer by any means, he scored 5 points on 100% from the field. He hit his only three point attempt, which while not consistent, is a great sign for him as confidence in your shot is a huge part of taking the leap as a shooter (as mentioned yesterday with Tre). Sochan also continues to show his defensive versatility, netting both a block and steal for the silver and black. Branham on the other hand, struggled again scoring from the field. This isn’t due to bad looks either, he’s done a great job moving off the ball and getting to his preferred spots on the court, he just hasn’t been able to knock down his shots. The mechanics in his jump shot look good as well, and he was visibly frustrated with himself for missing some of the easier looks he had. This is likely a mix of the adjustment process for rookies and just nerves in general for such a young player to be thrown into the starting 5 just 10 games into the year. Branham will likely pick it up down the line, and with what we’ve seen already, his potential to be a legitimate contributor to this team is very exciting.

The Spurs get a break until Monday night where they go back home and get a rematch with the Nuggets. Spurs need to come out hungry and ready to play hard if they want the win against the title-contending Nuggets.

1 comentario

Best article 👏

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