Tank for Victor Wembanyama? Not so fast, say the San Antonio Spurs. Picking up a massive win on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night, the team from the Alamo City is now 3-1 and tied for second place in the Western Conference.
After losing at home on opening night to the Hornets, the Spurs have won three games in a row, all on the road. Over the first week of the season, they've taken the league by storm and proven to be much more dangerous than initially thought.
The Spurs' massacre of the Timberwolves featured a dazzling shooting display from third-year wing Devin Vassell, as he made five three-pointers and scored 23 points. He was also on triple-double watch with nine rebounds and seven assists.
But the Spurs' win wasn't all about Vassell, or even one player in particular. There was a team-wide X-Factor at play that helped lead to San Antonio's victory in Minnesota.
The Spurs' fight has played a big part in 3-1 start
So far this season and on Monday night, the Spurs' X-Factor that has pushed them over the top has been their grit, determination, and desire to win. It may sound rudimentary, but San Antonio's hustle and effort has been noticeable over the first week of the season.
This idea was first brought to the attention of Spurs fans when Devin Vassell went on Instagram live before the season and sounded off on how he was tired of hearing about the team tanking. "We hoopin' this year. Y'all gonna see," Vassell said.
It makes sense that the team has adopted this mentality. Since the organization traded Dejounte Murray in June, all the talk surrounding the team has been about how they don't have a great roster and should be in prime position to obtain a top three draft pick in 2023. It's natural that those conversations would be irritable to a group of players that's clearly serious about winning and getting better.
Spurs have given themselves a chance with hustle
The Spurs' on-court play so far this season has been indicative of their annoyance at these narratives. They've given themselves a chance against teams that are clearly far more talented than them, like the 76ers and the Timberwolves.
Against Minnesota on Monday night, San Antonio put up an astounding 37 assists, assisting on 77% of their 48 shot attempts. They currently lead the NBA in assists per game with an average of 30.0 through four contests. Sharing the ball well is a sign of good team chemistry, and the Spurs' high assist total is encouraging for their chances to improve going forward.
On a night where the Timberwolves were on the second night of a back-to-back and seemed almost disinterested at times, the Spurs took every advantage to out-hustle and out-fight the Wolves, staving off a fourth quarter rally to seal the win.
Their determination was something that even Coach Gregg Popovich had to recognize in the postgame press conference. "They play hard, they enjoy playing with each other. They come to win. You sleep at night when you've got a group that does that," said Pop.
It's clear this is a group that plans on fighting for everything they've got, and that's something to be proud of. If they can bring the same energy they brought against the Timberwolves for the rest of the season, we could be in for more Spurs victories than we bargained for.