San Antonio Spurs: 3 stars from win over a shorthanded Wizards squad
Jan 24, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) shoots over Washington Wizards center Alex Len (27) in the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
These San Antonio Spurs shined in the team’s win over Washington
I’d like to give a special “thank you” to the San Antonio Spurs for their win over the Washington Wizards last night. After seeing the Green Bay Packers fall in the NFC Championship earlier in the day I don’t know if my heart could’ve taken another loss.
The Spurs desperately needed a win. They had gone through two painful losses and needed to right the ship. This game against an extremely shorthanded Wizards team couldn’t have come at a better time.
Before last night, the Wizards had been sitting in limbo for almost two weeks. They’d had their last six games postponed, hadn’t played in 12 days, and only had ten active players for last night’s game. If the Spurs didn’t win this one we were going to have to have a group therapy session immediately.
Thankfully, the Spurs were able to pull out a full team win. Every active player got some run, even the young guys! It was a nice way to start what could end up being a tough week for San Antonio. It was a team win but the performances of these three players stood out more than others.
Dejounte Murray continues to thrive with San Antonio Spurs
After exiting their last game with a sprained ankle, Dejounte Murray was back with a vengeance last night. He showed off his improved all-around game against one of the better backcourts in the NBA and ended the game with his second triple-double of the season.
At close to this point last year that I predicted that Murray could grow into a triple-double machine. That prediction didn’t come through last year but Murray is among the lead leaders in the category this season.
With his second triple-double last night, Murray joined Luka Doncic, Russell Westbrook, Giannis, James Harden, and Ben Simmons as the only players in the league with multiple triple-doubles this season.
His shot wasn’t falling but he filled out the rest of the stat sheet well. Murray made up for the lackluster rebounding of the Spurs frontcourt by grabbing 11 boards on his own while also dishing out 10 assists. But the most impressive part of his evening didn’t show up in his box score.
DJ recorded just one steal but helped force Westbrook into four turnovers and contributed to holding the former MVP to just 3-11 shooting from the floor. This was key for the Spurs as it allowed them to focus more of their attention on Bradley Beal, who still was able to go for 31 points on his own.
Murray has been on a tear all season. He’s coming into his own as one of the most impactful yet underappreciated point guards in the league. Rack up a few more triple-doubles and maybe he’ll start to get the national attention he deserves.
Next: A big night for the rookie
Jan 22, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Devin Vassell (24) warms up before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Devin Vassell shines in extended minutes for San Antonio Spurs
Devin Vassell has done nothing but live up to expectations set by San Antonio Spurs fans from the moment he was drafted. It seems like hardly a game can go by without him doing something that reminds you just how good he is right now, and how much better he can still become.
Against Washington, Vassell got nearly as much playing time as he has all season. In 24 minutes of play, he was able to record 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals while continuing to make shots from behind the arc at a high clip (4 for 6) and not turn the basketball over.
His shot-making is important but the one thing that continues to stand out from Vassell’s game is how smart he is on the defensive end of the floor. He combines an absurd wingspan with great instincts for the game and is already recognizing when he needs to insert himself to swing things the Spurs way.
Good morning. Here's some textbook nail help from a rookie who sees his teammate in a mismatch. pic.twitter.com/KeIlDBM78p
— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) January 25, 2021
It’s been clear since preseason that Vassell was going to be in for a heavy minute load this season. He’s filled whatever role they’ve needed him to, either as an on-ball stopper or as a lights-out three-point shooter, and he’s getting his teammates to take notice of his game.
After this game, Gregg Popovich would call him a “natural basketball player” and Lonnie Walker would praise his three-point shooting.
There are already some calls for Vassell to take a spot in the starting lineup. As well-intentioned as those are, it’s probably not going to happen. No one in the starting lineup has played so poorly as to deserve a benching, at least no one that Vassell would reasonably be expected to replace.
He’s good, but don’t expect to see Devin Vassell in the starting lineup any time soon. Spurs fans will have to be satisfied as seeing Vassell continue to thrive in his integral role as a member of the second unit.
Next: Patty Mills' scorched Earth tour continues
Jan 22, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) talks to his team during a timeout in the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Patty Mills stays hot, continues career year for San Antonio Spurs
After going through a bit of a rough patch, Patty Mills responded by lighting up the Washington Wizards for 21 points last night. His performance off the bench was a large reason why the San Antonio Spurs were able to escape with a win.
I referred to it as a rough patch but really all Patty did was take a break from cashing in on 50 percent of his three-point attempts and sprinkled in a few shoddy performances from behind the arc. He’s still going full FIBA Patty and he’s still having a career year.
The “8 for 12 from deep for 27 points” performances that we saw from Patty against the LA Clippers aren’t going to be the norm but last night was close. He cashed in on 50 percent of his shots from behind the arc and gave the Spurs the punch they needed from their backcourt with a few of their starting guards having off games.
I think this almost makes Patty’s standout games more enjoyable. If the Spurs were counting on him to deliver 20+ points on a nightly basis we’d end up disappointed more often than not. Set the expectations lower at around 13-14 points per game and then revel in the instances where Patty goes off.
Truly, I don’t know if any part of this season is going to bring me more happiness than watching Patty cook opposing teams’ backup point guards at 32 years old. He’s an absolute treasure and anyone who says he doesn’t deserve to have his jersey retired is a fool. Patty forever.
The San Antonio Spurs are back at it tonight as they host the New Orleans Pelicans for the second matchup of the season between the two teams.