The San Antonio Spurs were floundering on national television during the first half of their primetime matchup against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, and it seemed like they might succumb to their second consecutive blowout loss when the game reached intermission. Despite falling behind by 20 points at the beginning of the third quarter, the youngsters rallied around each other and pulled off a remarkable last-second comeback that started with an unusual personnel decision.
With his team trailing 98-85 and 9:45 remaining in regulation, Head Coach Gregg Popovich unleashed a unique lineup of Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Doug McDermott, Cedi Osman, and Victor Wembanyama. Though that five-man unit only shared the court for one minute and 23 seconds, they cut the double-digit deficit to five points. Thanks to their collective sharpshooting prowess, playmaking acumen, and defensive activity, the Spurs had a perfect environment for their teenage star to thrive.
Wembanyama receiving an extended run at center for San Antonio was perhaps the most significant aspect of this experimental lineup. The front office has been adamant about stationing the rookie on the perimeter and asking Zach Collins or Charles Bassey to handle traditional post players inside the paint to protect him from taking as much physical punishment as possible. Sticking to Drew Eubanks for a few possessions was manageable, but Pop trusted him to handle Jusuf Nurkic.
Having a natural point guard like Jones directing traffic on offense was another distinctive advantage for this group. Despite the Silver and Black scoring all their buckets in transtion save for a single half-court sequence, the fourth-year floor general made hit-ahead passes that nobody else on this roster can. Those precise deliveries and quick-trigger decisions allowed San Antonio to push the tempo off blocked shots and long rebounds, which redirected the momentum in their favor.
Spurs fans have 78 games left on the regular season schedule, so keep an eye out for how Popovich retools rotations as we learn more about the makeup of this rebuilding ball club.
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