The human bowling ball that is Keldon Johnson has burst onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere for San Antonio upon their arrival in Orlando for the NBA restart. And he continued to announce his arrival to the rest of the league with a career-high 24 point and 11 rebound performance in a monumental victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday that kept the Spurs’ historic playoff streak alive.
The best of Keldon Johnson from his career-high 24 point breakout performance against the Houston Rockets: pic.twitter.com/HZHvFBVnAa— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) August 12, 2020
Not only did Keldon pick up the first double-double of his burgeoning career, but he also became the first Spurs rookie to record multiple 20 point games in a season since Gary Neal in 2010-2011. While Neal, 26-years-old at the time, predictably stagnated following his first go-round, Johnson, not yet old enough to legally enjoy an alcoholic beverage, only figures to continue flourishing as he learns the ins and outs of the trade.
Keldon Johnson is now the first Spurs Rookie to have multiple 20-point games in a season since Gary Neal in 2011.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) August 11, 2020
Before the hiatus, Keldon appeared in nine contests for the big league club, spending most of his rookie season honing his craft in the G-League with the Austin Spurs. Although the Kentucky alumnus eclipsed 20 minutes just once for head coach Gregg Popovich entering the bubble, injuries forced him into the rotation, and he hasn’t played fewer than 22 minutes in any of San Antonio’s first seven seeding games.
As my fellow Pounding the Rock writer Bruno Passos wrote a week ago, Keldon Johnson has been a revelation for the Spurs. His competitiveness and willingness to make hustle plays are unmatched by anyone on the roster, and his boundless energy tangibly rubs off on the players who share the hardwood with him. Most importantly, he appears to mesh with any lineup San Antonio throws out there.
Rookies seldom find themselves involved in San Antonio’s immediate plans, and while Keldon isn’t the first to receive prolific praise from Pop, we haven’t heard him rave over a rookie like this since Kawhi Leonard came to town in 2011. His combination of skill and physicality has him on track to become one of the biggest steals of the 2019 Draft, and coupled with his newfangled ability to knock down the three-ball, Johnson appears destined for success in Silver and Black.
Popovich w/high praise for #Spurs rookie Keldon Johnson..'do they still have mustangs out West? He's one of those guys, energetic, aggressive. Somebody we're really high on.'— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) July 28, 2020
Also addresses why Patty Mills hasn't played...'he's kind of got the Manu sort of make up.' #KSATsports pic.twitter.com/BeH98mYIwc
Lonnie Walker IV also enjoyed a breakthrough at the expense of the Houston Rockets earlier this season, so feel free to relive that equally satisfying victory with the exhilarating highlight reel below.