San Antonio couldn’t match the intensity of the upstart Charlotte Hornets as they put on a dazzling three-point display, blowing out the Spurs, 131-116, despite missing leading scorer, rebounder, and facilitator LaMelo Ball and backup point guard Ish Smith.
Bryn Forbes led the Silver and Black with 25 points, followed by 21 points from Keldon Johnson and 18 points from Derrick White. Gordon Hayward stole the show for Charlotte, recording a season-high 41 points along with five boards and three assists.
- San Antonio found themselves down by 12 points nearly six minutes into the contest, which was an odd sight considering they owned the third-best first-quarter point differential in the NBA coming into this matchup. Cody Martin and Gordon Hayward combined for 25 points in the opening frame as they led a three-point barrage that saw the Hornets knock down ten first-quarter triples. Head coach Gregg Popovich tried countering by replacing all his starters except for Jakob Poeltl, which injected a bit of life into the Spurs, but they ultimately allowed a season-worst 46 points after one.
- Despite falling behind by as many as 21 points in the first quarter, San Antonio continued to show a never-say-die attitude in the second period, rallying behind their second unit. Devin Vassell and Bryn Forbes came off the bench and immediately left their fingerprints all over the game. The backcourt duo helped the Spurs close within eight points, burying an array of trifectas, difficult midrange jumpers, finesse finishes around the rim, and a thunderous transition slam courtesy of the second-year wing.
- From Mike Budenholzer and Monty Williams to Sean Marks and Jaque Vaughn to Taylor Hearn and Quin Synder, it feels like the Silver and Black are constantly running into familiar faces that originated from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree. James Borrego is another one of the many play-callers in the NBA who sat along San Antonio’s bench for years before earning a shot a leading a franchise from the sidelines. Although the 44-year-old hasn’t seen a winning season since joining Charlotte in 2018, the Hornets have steadily climbed towards contention behind a few of the same philosophies the Spurs implement night in and night out. Borrego demands unselfish passing, preaches taking care of the ball, and expects his players to get after it on the defensive end. The Spurs alumnus has unique wrinkles in his offense that set him apart from his former mentor, and his affinity for three-balls and run-and-gun basketball shined bright as his club took down the good guys.
- Miles Bridges was somehow awarded a pair of free throws from Tony Brothers and the officiating crew after getting away with a blatant push with his off-arm on back-to-back possessions, which had Gregg Popovich and the rest of San Antonio’s bench in disbelief. The Spurs opted not to challenge the play, but karma was on their side as Bridges bricked both of his freebies. As the classic hoops saying goes, “ball don’t lie.”
- Gordon Hayward had his way against San Antonio’s defense from the moment the game began, and he scored in just about every way imaginable. The 31-year-old forward glided to the basket in transition, hunted mismatches off-ball screens, knocked down catch-and-shoot triples, drained mid-range jumpers off the bounce, and got to the charity stripe. He played with the confidence of a bonafide superstar, masterfully picked apart the Spurs, and it wasn’t all that shocking to see the one-time All-Star come within three points of notching a new career-high.
- Dejounte Murray and Derrick White have established themselves as one of the best two-way backcourts in the NBA over the past couple of weeks. The duo has combined to average 36.6 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 13.9 assists per game since November 26th while hounding opposing ballhandlers with their usual stingy perimeter defense. Dejounte and Derrick rarely have an off game on the same night, but that was the case against the Hornets as they came together to score 28 points on a frigid 7-of-21 shooting.
- Jock Landale checked into the contest with 6:04 remaining in regulation, which is the earliest action the big man has seen all season. With that said, the Spurs were down by 30 points by the time he got to the scorer’s table, and that meant a ninth straight garbage time appearance for the towering Aussie. Landale made the most of his cleanup duty, scoring in the post, blocking Terry Rozier on a fadeaway in the paint, and helping San Antonio close the deficit to 16 points. Pop has talked about how he won’t read into any performance that comes late into a blowout, so fans probably shouldn’t bank on seeing early minutes for the stretch-five any time soon.
- Keldon Johnson has been the most accurate three-point shooter in the league since he nailed three triples in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks in mid-November, hitting his long-range attempts at an unbelievable 57.1% clip. Though all good things must come to an end, the third-year forward kept things rolling from beyond the arc against the Hornets, sinking a triumvirate of three-balls in the final matchup of San Antonio’s five-game homestand. Can the Kentucky product maintain this insane efficiency all season? Probably not, but as long as the shots are falling through the net, Keldon should have a green light to let it fly.
For the Hornets fans’ perspective, please visit At The Hive.