The San Antonio Spurs returned from a successful 4-1 road trip to take on a new-look Houston Rockets team at home, where they have only gone 1-4 this season. The Youngsters tried to lead the team to victory, but the veterans didn’t contribute much, and the Spurs home woes continued as the shorthanded but motivated Rockets had the final run of the game to pull out a gutsy win 109-105 win over the Silver and Black.
Keldon Johnson had a career-high 29 points on 12-16 shooting to lead the Spurs, and Lonnie Walker IV had another solid night with 16 points on 4-7 from three. Christian Wood had a 27-point, 15 rebound double-double to pace the Rockets.
- Why does Nike feel the need to have teams swap home and away uniforms? It has never made sense, and I don’t understand why the NBA has given them complete control over what uniform teams wears for each game. Tonight, it was almost as if the Spurs players weren’t prepared to wear black considering all their extra gear (leggings, shootings sleeves, compression wear, etc.) was white. It looked off against the black uniforms.
- The Rockets came out inspired now that the locker room cancer that was James Harden is out of their way, quickly building a 21-11 lead with 10 of those points coming from Wood. As they always do this season, the Spurs bench responded by upping the energy and closing the quarter on a 16-9 run. Devin Vassell played a roll in that run with a three and energizing dunk. He tied his career high of 12 points overall.
- Jakob Poeltl must be trying some new strokes to rediscover his touch from the free throw line. Although he’s never reached 60% shooting from the line in is career, he has been especially horrendous this season, hitting just 3-15 for the season. Two of those misses came in the first quarter, when he left two well short while attempting a one-handed stroke.
- It never seems to fail that a non-three-point shooter has a career night against the Spurs. Tonight it was Wood, who despite being a 27% shooter hit his first three threes and 5-7 overall.
- The Rockets once again got out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter as the Spurs offense went cold again before Lonnie Walker IV responded with two straight threes to get the Spurs back within five. However, he looked like he may have injured his thumb on his non-shooting hand, as he was seen grimacing and holding it after that. Although it felt like they got vastly outplayed, the Spurs entered the halftime only down 48-45.
- Gregg Popovich must have given the Spurs an earful in the locker room, because they came out much more focused to start the third quarter (usually their kryptonite). They used an 11-0 run spanning halftime to get their first lead since 6-4. Johnson and Walker were the main instigators, helping the Spurs stretch the lead as far as eight points. However, the Rockets always had an answer to keep them from pulling away, and the Spurs led 79-75 heading into the final frame.
- Grant Hill said ahead of the second half that he was nervous about his sideline interview with Pop, and who could blame him? The Spurs weren’t giving him much to be thrilled about (not that he’s ever happy). Instead, Hill just told Pop to pick a topic, and after Pop mentioned defense, Hill asked him about wine before Pop ending things with one of his classic burns: “I gotta game here! Jeezaloo!” This is what the NBA is missing by not putting the Spurs on national television.
- DeMar DeRozan was quiet for most of the night, possibly battling some rust after missing the last two games, but Fourth Quarter DeMar showed up, scoring six straight to get the Spurs back in the lead after a quick Rockets run and 10 overall in the quarter. LaMarcus Aldridge also contributed six points in the fourth after a quiet first three quarters, but the Rockets made yet another run to get the lead for good late with a parade of lay-ups against the Spurs porous defense, while the Spurs couldn’t penetrate the Rockets defense. DeRozan’s game-tying attempt rolled out, and that was that (after the Rockets got a couple of free throws with 0.4 sec left).
- With Patty Mills hitting just 1-7 threes on the night, it was a curious decision to keep him in the game late ahead of Walker considering he had a hotter scoring hand on the night and Mills was not helping (although not entirely at fault for) their fourth quarter defensive woes. Hopefully it’s not because that thumb is an issue . . .
For the Rockets fans perspective, visit The Dream Shake.
The Spurs will complete their home miniseries against the Rockets in the AT&T Center on Saturday. It will be an early tip-off at 4:00 PM CT on FSSW, so be sure to plan your weekend accordingly.