The San Antonio Spurs secured their first regular season win this past Friday against the Pacers in Indianapolis in a down-to-the-wire finish, with a final score of 137-134. Rick Carlisle and company made a last-minute surge in the fourth quarter, largely fueled by his "Hack-a-Jak" strategy against Jakob Poeltl and some shaky full-court offense from the Spurs.
Regardless, fans should enjoy what will likely be an uncommon win from the young Spurs squad, particularly after the team's disheartening loss to the Hornets on opening night. While we think nearly everyone performed well in Friday night's matchup, these players stood out as the two best and the one that could be a bit better next time.
The dud: Josh Primo
This was a bit of a tough call, and the "dud" of the game nearly went to Tre Jones for some of his struggles toward the end of the game, but if I'm forced to choose, I'll nitpick Josh Primo's game a bit. Overall, I actually don't think Primo played very badly at all--he had some strong defensive possessions and racked up 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal.
I'd like for Primo to be a bit more aggressive as a scorer, but frankly, I'm not expecting him to shoot the lights out of every stadium he plays in, particularly this early on in the season. What do want to see from him when he isn't scoring, however, is how else he's able to affect the game. He was very quietly the Spurs' assist leader on Friday night, making some excellent extra passes that he could have just as easily taken for himself. Particularly while he's still coming off the bench, finding other ways to affect the game like this will be instrumental to his long-term success.
The studs: Devin Vassell & Keldon Johnson
After a disappointing first game of the season, Devin Vassell made a resurgence in a big way on Friday night, finishing the game with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. He looked much closer to the player that showed up in the Spurs' play-in game this past season and could be foreshadowing more impressive performances to come.
What impressed me most about Vassell's game on Friday night, though, was the way in which he found his shot. He didn't start the game particularly hot, but he remained aggressive and got going by going to his most comfortable shot: the midrange pull-up. After knocking down a few of those, his game opened up dramatically and his confidence was clearly more intact compared to his first game.
Keldon Johnson is becoming the model of consistency for the Spurs, having given fans another very impressive performance and finishing his night with 23 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal. The best part of Johnson's game on this occasion, though, was his defense. He reportedly wanted to make that a "point of emphasis" this season, and so far he's delivered. He moved his feet well, was as physical as always, and contested shots well, leading to some difficult attempts from Pacers players.
At some point later in the season, I have a strong feeling that I'll have to raise the bar a bit for both Vassell and Johnson. Otherwise, they'll constantly be making appearances in the 'studs' section of these post-game reviews. Until that time comes, though, expect to see both of their names here again.
The Spurs will be facing the Philadelphia 76ers tomorrow evening on the second day of a back-to-back at 5:00 PM CST.