Despite taking another loss on the second night of their back-to-back outings on the West coast, the San Antonio Spurs bounced back in a big way after playing their lowest-scoring game of the season in San Francisco. While ultimately falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the final minutes of the game, the Spurs nearly snagged the game from their now fully-healthy opponents. And considering how much the Spurs struggled to get to the rim on Monday night, the ease with which they were able to get easy buckets in last night's game was a very promising sign.
Collectively, the Spurs played quite well against the current leaders of the Western Conference, and the grades the Spurs' starters earned reflect that performance. So, let's not waste any more time and get to the fun parts. This is how the Spurs starters faired in their tough battle in Portland.
Tre Jones: B-
Being that Tre Jones only just returned from being out with a stomach illness, I wasn't expecting too much from him last night. And while he wasn't as aggressive as a scorer as he could have been--only recording 2 points in 20 minutes--he found other ways to affect the game. Most notably, he recorded 9 assists without a single turnover. While I don't attribute the Spurs' loss to the Warriors entirely to Jones' absence, it was abundantly clear that the ball was moving around more last night.
Along with that efficiency, Jones nabbed a couple of rebounds and snagged 3 steals. While I thought he had a few shoddy games toward the very beginning of the season, Jones has only been getting more consistent and always finds ways to impact the game outside of putting the ball in the bucket. He could have been better, but he still made a significant impact with all things considered.
Devin Vassell: B
Devin Vassell was his usual self in the way of shooting, having scored 21 points on the night on an efficient 7/14 from the field and 4/7 from beyond the arc. If he can continue such efficient shooting from the midrange and from three for the rest of the season, the Spurs may have one of the league's elite shooters on their hands.
With this in mind, though, Vassell ought to take a page from Tre Jones' book and find other ways to affect the game on offense. He didn't grab many rebounds, dish out many passes that led to assists, or get to the rim with much aggression outside of the crafty finish above. He also had a team-high 4 turnovers and a few personal fouls to go along with them. His lights-out shooting saved his grade on this occasion, but he'll need to do a bit more to warrant an A-grade.
Keldon Johnson: B-
Keldon Johnson is another player whose shooting bumped his grade up a bit higher than it would've been otherwise, having shot 4/8 from the three-point line. But his overall scoring efficiency wasn't particularly great (only shooting 42% from the field) and he had some critical mistakes down the stretch of the game that more or less gave Portland the win. While Johnson's other counting stats looked good, having picked up 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, we're getting to the point where we're starting to expect a bit more from him in tight games.
Jeremy Sochan: A
Jeremy Sochan had a really tough time being the primary ballhandler against a good Golden State Warriors team (don't let their record fool you), but last night was a great bounceback game for him. Box score watchers still likely won't be overly impressed with his 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, but his two-way versatility was on full display. He likely should have had a couple more assists, looked a bit more comfortable putting the ball on the floor, and played some outstanding defense against Damian Lillard in crunch time.
Jakob Poeltl: A+
Jakob Poeltl's game highlights should tell you most of what you need to know: he had a career-high 31 points, made plays for his teammates, grabbed a bunch of rebounds, and protected the rim. I couldn't ask any more of Poeltl if I tried my hardest. He simply played a fantastic game and is slowly but surely converting me to the crowd that thinks he should be part of the rebuild long-term. He was undoubtedly the Spurs' best player in their game against the Trail Blazers and he could sneakily be the Spurs' best player in general.
The Spurs will face the Sacramento Kings this coming Thursday in the team's third game of their West coast road trip, tipping off at 9:00 PM CST.