For the first time since their opening-night loss to the Charlotte Hornets, the San Antonio Spurs are now under .500 after taking their second straight loss to the Denver Nuggets. While the Spurs managed to keep the game tight until the very end, a clutch shot by Nikola Jokic and a following defensive breakdown sealed the game for Denver.
If the Spurs are going to lose games this season, though, then it's losses like these that I won't mind. They kept things very competitive with a top team in the West who likely will have NBA Title aspirations come the postseason. Wins don't simply begin to fall in teams' laps immediately after accumulating enough talent (see: Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic), so it's important for teams to learn how to execute game plans well and at least keep games within reach, even if they aren't quite able to close those games out with a win on a regular basis yet.
On a related note, in the Spurs' postgame media conference, Head Coach Gregg Popovich said, “24 turnovers for 35 points is going to make it real difficult to win a game. That’s how we lost it. But I couldn’t be prouder. Their execution and their competitiveness – that’s how we have to be night after night. They did a great job. We just turned the ball over too much against a good and experienced basketball team. But I’m really happy for them and thrilled with the way they played.”
So, to dive a bit more into what has me (and Coach Pop) so encouraged for the future, let's briefly go over what I think are a few of the main takeaways from the game.
Tre Jones looks the part of a legit NBA point guard.
Tre Jones had a ton going for him as a draft prospect--a good floater game, good court vision, good on-ball defense, and more. But at only about 6'2" in shoes, he's a bit on the smaller side compared to some more modern point guards entering the league, and his lack of shooting in combination with that was an issue.
Thankfully, Jones seems to have addressed his shooting during the offseason in a big way, as he's shot 42% from beyond the arc on 2.4 attempts per game. Even if he isn't the Spurs' long-term starting point guard, Jones will have a ton of staying power in the league if he can keep up with that outside shooting moving forward.
High-scoring games are the new norm for Keldon Johnson.
Similarly, Keldon Johnson's leap in production on offense is looking more and more convincing with each passing game, with the young forward having recorded 30 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals in his latest game. While Johnson will have an "off" game every once in a while as I think he did two games ago against the Los Angeles Clippers, it looks like his lights-out shooting and overall scoring prowess are here to stay, which is a big development for the team moving forward.
The Spurs may have found a young, rotational big man for a steal.
Charles Bassey may not have put up the insane numbers that he did in his two latest games in Austin, but he continued to flash some really promising things in the time he was given against real NBA competition. He recorded a monster block at the rim against Michael Porter Jr., made a slick pass to a cutting Devin Vassell from the top of the key, and continued to rebound with ease last night.
Considering the Spurs essentially acquired Bassey for nothing, he's already looking like a free-agency steal. The Spurs have quite a bit of depth at the center position for the time being with Jakob Poeltl, Zach Collins, and Gorgui Dieng all being on the roster as well, but Bassey provides good insurance if the Spurs were to trade one or both of Poeltl and Collins at some point soon.
Up next, the Spurs will be facing the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow at home in San Antonio at 7:00 PM CST.