Devin Vassell’s leadership, ‘monster’ game fuel Spurs beat down of Jazz

Behind Devin Vassell’s 31 points, the Spurs head into Utah and knock off the Jazz.

Devin Vassell’s superstar teammate used the word “beautiful” to describe his evolution and his Hall of Fame coach called him a “monster.” It was that kind of an effort for the San Antonio Spurs second leading scorer in a 118-111 win over the Utah Jazz.

Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs logo, Utah Jazz logo

Vassell led the Spurs with 31 points Wednesday, hitting key shots during a fourth quarter that saw the Jazz hang around. The fourth year guard fell just five points short of a career-high 36 he scored in mid-December when San Antonio broke a franchise record 18 game losing streak.

Vassell leads Spurs in Utah

San Antonio Spurs guard Devin Vassell (24) drives as Utah Jazz forward Brice Sensabaugh (8) defends during the third quarter at Delta Center.

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
While his game-high 31 points served as the headline, afterward Vassell spoke about his desire to improve on defense.

“I’m just trying to be a leader out there on both ends of the floor. I talked about it earlier in the season where I just want to be kind of that defensive anchor,” the former Florida State star continued. “We have Vic [Victor Wembanyama]. Jeremy’s [Sochan] been playing great on the defensive end. TJ’s [Tre Jones] picking up full court, Blake [Wesley]. I want to be that next guy. I want to be somebody who’s picking up and just being disruptive. On the defensive end, I’ve just really been trying to anchor that.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pointed out Vassell’s defensive assignment Wednesday night.

“He had to guard [Collin] Sexton a lot so I was afraid he might get too tired to shoot the damn thing, but he pushed through and was a monster for us at both ends.”

Vassell mentioned his head coach when he did talk about his offense. For the night, he hit half of the eight three-pointers he took, going 12-20 from the field.

“Offensively, I say it all the time, coach puts me in a great position to get downhill, get to my spots, pick them apart,” the 2020 11th overall pick said.

“If they’re trapping me, I can hit the short roll or the skip or whoever it is and they’ve been knocking down shots. Malaki [Branham] came in and knocked down some big shots. It was a great night for a bunch of people. It was a great team effort, a great team win.”

Malaki Branham was one of three Spurs, along with Jeremy Sochan and Julian Champagnie ,who scored 17 points in Salt Lake City.

Vassell’s evolution

Perhaps Vassell’s most entertaining points came on a one-legged fade away three as the shot clock hit zero and the game clock showing :12 in the second quarter.

“I actually work on it a lot. It might sound cliche’ but I work on a lot of crazy shots. And that’s why when people say I shoot some crazy shots, it’s because I shoot and work on a lot of crazy shots. At least, one finally went it.”

Victor Wembanyama added 19 Wednesday night, finishing second to Vassell on the team in scoring. For the season, Vassell’s 19.4 points per game trail only Wemby’s 20.7.

“More and more, he’s becoming a real problem for defenses. It’s beautiful to see him evolve like this throughout the year. I don’t know how many 30 point games he’s had, or 25 plus, he’s had a lot,” the generational talent said.

“We have to know our strengths and what we want to go to Dev with. He’s a big part of it so all of us trust him.”

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