Before the NBA All-Star break, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich challenged his team to play better defense. On Thursday night as the association returned to action, his squad looked like they missed the message. The Spurs (14-46) allowed the Dallas Mavericks (32-29) to connect on 52 percent from beyond the arc for 66 points, shooting 56 percent from the floor in general. San Antonio’s 142-116 loss in Dallas was their 15th consecutive, extending the longest win drought in the franchise’s history. The team last won over a month ago on January 17th against the Brooklyn Nets.
Malaki Branham didn’t cool off any during the break as he led the Spurs in scoring with 23 points. Keldon Johnson was right behind him with 22 points while recording a team-high seven assists. Zach Collins led all players with 12 rebounds, joining Luka Doncic as the only two players in the game with a double-double. Donic posted a game-high 28 points along with his 10 assists, helping eight Mavericks players score double-digits.
It Was a Sloppy Game For the San Antonio Spurs
The condensation on the court wasn’t the only mess in American Airlines Arena on Thursday night. San Antonio committed 16 turnovers, 25 personal fouls, shot 69 percent from the free-throw line, and couldn’t defend the Mavericks, trailing by as many as 30 points. Projected to lose by 14 points, nobody really had the Spurs winning against the loaded Dallas squad. Giving up a pair of 40-point quarters, however, certainly was unexpected. Still, the staff and the fans would surely like to see some level of growth as a team, especially defensively.
If San Antonio can find a way to get some stops, they should be able to end the losing, even if briefly. Dallas isn’t a strong defensive unit this year, and the Spurs highlighted that fact by connecting on 52 percent of shots from the floor and 40 percent from the perimeter. Performances like that get overshadowed when a team turns the ball over 16 times and doesn’t put the effort in on the other end of the floor.
The Spurs were without a trio of starters on Thursday as Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones were both scratches with soreness and Devin Vassell is still working his way back from his knee procedure last month. When those players, as well as Romeo Langford, can return, they’ll bring with them a higher level of defensive impact, though surely not enough to account for many wins. With a prime spot in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes in hand thanks to their record, that isn’t all a bad thing.
Fortunately for the players, the Rodeo Road Trip is nearly at an end as the calendar nears March. The Spurs are on their way to Utah for a two-game series that starts on Saturday night against the Jazz (30-31) who won an overtime thriller against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. Led by Lauri Markkanen and San Antonio’s own Jordan Clarkson, Utah is playing much better than anticipated and could really help their campaign for the playoffs with a couple of wins against the Spurs.
The last time the two teams met was in December in the Alamo City where Markkanen and Clarkson combined for 57 points. San Antonio was able to squeak by with a win, led by Vassell, Johnson, and Branham. With Jakob Poeltl gone this time around for the Spurs, the Jazz have a significant size advantage, and it could be a long night for the Silver and Black.
Check out the box score on NBA.com for complete stats.