SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The San Antonio Spurs were far from hospitable in Brett Brown’s and Monty Williams’ homecoming.
The Spurs rolled to a 123-96 victory against the 76ers here at the AT&T Center on Monday night.
It marked the third loss in four games for the Sixers (20-12). Meanwhile, the Spurs (16-15) have won five of their last six contests. This marked their 14th victory in their last 15 series meetings in San Antonio.
“Tonight was not a great night on both sides of the ball,” Brown said. “I thought some of it, like I said, you give credit to San Antonio. The other [part] of it, I thought was self-inflicted. I didn’t think we were very good on either side.
“I thought defensively it was poor. Offensively we missed shots. But defensively is where I’m personally most disappointed.”
San Antonio small forward Rudy Gay scored a game-high 21 points. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge both added 20. Aldridge also had 10 rebounds. The Spurs shot 56.3 percent from the field.
Jimmy Butler had his worst game as a Sixer. The four-time All-Star finished with six points on 3-for-13 shooting.
“I was trying too hard on offense and that affected my defensive efforts the entire game,” Butler said. "We’ve done that a lot this year as a whole. We just can’t let that happen.
“It was a low-energy game. We weren’t making shots, me included. But we can’t let that affect the defensive end.”
Ben Simmons and JJ Redick paced the Sixers with 16 points apiece. Joel Embiid had 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Sixers failed to score at least 100 points for the first time in 21 games.
But coming to San Antonio still has a special meaning for Brown and Williams.
That’s because the Sixers' top two coaches love their time spent within the Spurs organization.
Brown is in his sixth season as the Sixers head coach. But he learned everything about the NBA from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford. Meanwhile, Williams, the Sixers’ lead assistant coach, is known for his head-coaching stint with the New Orleans Pelicans. He also had a nine-year playing career with five teams, including the Sixers.
But he cherishes the time spent in San Antonio as a player, assistant coach and front-office executive.
“To try to put it into words it’s just, you are talking about two people in R.C. and Pop that basically changed my life,” said Williams, who joined Brown’s staff in June after spending two years as the San Antonio’s vice president of basketball operations.
They didn’t just change his life as a basketball player. Buford and Popovich changed it as a man, a father and dealing with maturity.
“And basically helping me develop into the person, the coach and player that I was and am,” Williams said, “and just what they meant to my family and my career and my life is indescribable.”
Brown still gets excited about playing in San Antonio, riding into the city and heading to the arena when the Sixers are in town. During those moments, he’s reminded of the lasting friendships and gets flooded with memories.
Earlier in the day, former Spurs standout Bruce Bowen attended the coaching meeting and players meeting. Brown even had him talk to the Sixers about cherishing their roles whatever they might be. The coach also had lunch with another former Spur, Tim Duncan, a two-time league MVP and 15-time All-Star.
As they often are, the conversations were more about life than basketball. They touch a little bit on basketball.
“But it was way more catching up with them,” Brown said. “Seeing how they are doing personally, being very curious about their children, their family. That type of stuff.”
Brown, who had been coaching in Australia, came to San Antonio in 1999 as a volunteer.
He returned to Australia in 2000 to coach the Sydney Kings for two seasons before going back to San Antonio in 2002 as the full-time player development coach. Brown was promoted to the bench before the 2006-07 season.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks traded Williams to the Spurs on Feb. 8, 1996. He played in San Antonio the following two seasons.
Williams retired from basketball following the 2002-03 season. He then was a member of the Spurs staff for two seasons. Then Williams came back to organization as an executive in 2016. The 47-year-old still owns a house in San Antonio.
“I love this place,” he said. “I’ll probably, if I got fired today and the NBA was like, ‘Hey, you’re done, I’d be here in a minute. This is my home. … I have family here.
“So San Antonio is a special place for me.”
It’s also a special place for Brown.
But the Spurs weren’t to hospitable to them in the first half of Monday’s game.
San Antonio outscored them, 31-17, in the second quarter to take a 60-49 halftime lead.
“Whether it’s the back-to-back or whatever, I give the Spurs credit,” said Brown, whose squad defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 128-105 on Sunday. “We just didn’t come with the spirit. You know we really didn’t. It wasn’t anything that they felt us offensively or defensively on. Some of it you give San Antonio credit.
“Other bit, we have to look at ourselves.”