The San Antonio Spurs stole a game in Salt Lake, courtesy of a Lonnie Walker miracle shot with 14.9 seconds to play over Rudy Gobert to win, 128-126. But Friday’s win wasn’t just a road victory over the Western Conference’s current third seed, it was a comeback. The Spurs overcame a 16-point second half deficit, and traded haymakers down the stretch with one of the league’s best, and came out on top. Here’s how it happened.
The Spurs did a nice job early keeping pace with Utah’s high powered offense, keeping the score level after five minutes of play. The Spurs then got streaky by hitting four threes in a row — two from marksman Doug McDermott & two from Lonnie Walker IV who returned to action after a one game absence due to illness. On the other side of the floor, the defense was looking strong, contesting all shots and running the Jazz players off the 3pt line. Unfortunately, this wasn’t making much of a difference, with the home team still getting shots to fall. After the great start, the Silver & Black finished the first quarter down a point; 37-36, as the Jazz scored some easy buckets on mismatches.
Utah continued to search for the mismatch to start the second, including using their guards to go after Drew Eubanks on the perimeter. San Antonio countered by staying hot from three with Keldon Johnson hitting his second triple of the quarter. The middle of the second period brought some chaotic action as both teams tried to gain the momentum. So, it wasn’t a surprise when the best player on the floor, Donovan Mitchell was the one who grabbed it with open arms and asserted his dominance on the game with several drives into the paint for points. The game was getting away from the Spurs with their offense starting to dry up as they were relying solely on free throws and second chance points. They went into the half-time interval down; 73-59.
The road team needed a good start in the second half to give themselves a chance, and that’s exactly what they got. The Spurs had some shots fall early in this period, very reminiscent of the first quarter. They were playing more aggressively than the Jazz and this showed on the scoreboard as the 14-point half-time deficit got cut in half. San Antonio kept the ascendancy and were playing to the hot hand in Keldon Johnson, and within a few possessions they were only down a shot. It ended up being Devin Vassell who hit the ‘shot’ to give the Silver & Black their first lead since early in the second quarter. The momentum was all with them, and it only grew after a Derrick White three at the buzzer, which gave them a four-point lead going into the 4th quarter; 100-96.
The San Antonio native, Jordan Clarkson started the final period on fire by showcasing some special shot-making which got the home crowd on their feet. The Spurs though were not going to fold and after back to back blocks on driving Utah players, Keldon hit his fourth three of the game, this time from the corner to give the Spurs a six-point lead. Although, Utah weren’t the NBA’s hottest team for no reason, and they showed why by exploding for a quick five straight points to bring the game to one. For the Spurs, Dejounte Murray had only 10 points up until the final three minutes of play, but he understood the assignment, and that was to be the closer. He hit two tough mid-ranger jumpers as the Spurs and the Jazz were going back and forth with some truly insane buckets against good defense. Derrick White was one of the players that showed up late in this one, and with the Spurs down one with 45 seconds to go, he hit a contested jumper to put the Silver & Black back on top. Though, Donovan Mitchell wasn’t finished yet, he countered with a beautiful spin move floater in the lane to put the Jazz up one with 33 seconds to go.
At this point, it would have been easy for the Spurs to give up and fold, they had taken one of the NBA’s top teams to the wire on their home floor after being down by as many as 17 points, but that’s not the character of this San Antonio team. Pop had called for a set to get Dejounte Murray the ball, but Utah was all over it. So, Lonnie was stuck with the ball in his hands and the shot clock dwindling down. He called for a ball screen and attacked the paint, Rudy Gobert switched onto him and kept up with Lonnie stride for stride. Lonnie Walker is one of the most athletically gifted players in this league, and he used every bit of it to stay in the air once he got into the paint. He leaned back, used his off-arm to protect the shot, and as he was about to land, he let the ball go. The ball kissed off the glass and went into the hoop to put the Spurs back up one with under 15 seconds to go. The Spurs then played terrific defense on a Mitchell drive and secured the rebound to almost end the game. Jazz fouled and Dejounte went to the line, he made one of two to give the road team a two-point advantage, but Utah still had a timeout. With two seconds to go the home team inbounded the ball to their star player, Donovan Mitchell, who faded away on a three-point attempt, but Jakob Poeltl blocked him to cap a thriller, and possibly the Spurs’ best win of the season; 128-126.
- Got the Memo. The Spurs seemed to understand the assignment in how to beat the Utah Jazz. The Jazz shoot from deep more than any team in the league and during their win streak they had hit 19 threes per game. San Antonio didn’t just match the Jazz in three-point shooting, they beat them. The Spurs shot 41 threes compared to Utah’s 37 and to top it off they also made 2 more than the home team.
- Backup Big Dilemma. The Spurs went with two different backup bigs against the Jazz with two very different results. In the first half Pop went with Drew Eubanks, who had 4 fouls in eight minutes and was a minus 12. In the second, coach Pop mixed it up by giving Jock Landale his first non-garbage time minutes of the season. The Australian didn’t fill up the box score by any means, only scoring two points, but he had a noticeably positive impact and finished at a plus 14 in only six minutes. He helped fuel the comeback and this performance could see him get real rotation minutes going forward.
- Rudy Gay Reunion. It was certainly nice to see former Spur, Rudy Gay for the first time since he left that state of Texas in the summer. He was a valuable piece for a few years coming off the bench in San Antonio, but it only made sense this summer for both parties to part ways considering the direction the Spurs were going in. It was also nice that a former Spur didn’t kill the team on the court in his return, Rudy only had 4 points and 4 rebounds in his 20 minutes.
- The Spurs ended the Utah Jazz eight game winning streak, which was the current highest in the NBA.
Play of the Game
Impossible for the Play of the Game not to be the play that won the game, so here it is, Lonnie Walker IV’s game winner.
Lonnie Walker IV with the TOUGH shot over the defense, for the lead! @spurs 128@utahjazz 126— NBA (@NBA) December 18, 2021
2.1 left on League Pass. Jazz ball.https://t.co/wVIrg2Swvb pic.twitter.com/XaVIq4wdrj
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
How can Dejounte Murray get a triple-double, hit clutch shots and not get an SVP point? Well in this one, it happened. Dejounte was good against the Jazz, I’m not saying he wasn’t. He had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. While also grabbing two steals and blocking a shot. He just misses out on third place because he didn’t shoot the ball well (6/16) and was only 1/6 from three. He also had two turnovers compared to the guy who had zero who ended up in third place, speaking of...
3rd place (1 point): Derrick White | 33 minutes, 22 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
Derrick saved his best until last against the Jazz, after having only 5 points in the first-half he finished with 22 for the night. He hit 2 threes, though he missed 6, but shot a solid 47 percentages from the floor. He really secured the 3rd place by committing no turnovers, shooting 6/6 from the line and hitting a couple of tough buckets to close the game, including the one with 45 seconds to play.
2nd place (2 points): Keldon Johnson | 31 minutes, 24 points, 8 rbs, 2 asts, 4/5 from three
KJ was outstanding in this one, whether he was shooting from the outside or attacking the paint, he was just unstoppable. It’s getting to the point where his three pointer may not just be a hot streak, but may be just how good he now is from the outside. He has to be credited with his hard work to get better and become a real threat from the 3pt line which opens up the court for the rest of the team.
1st place (3 points): Lonnie Walker IV | 29 minutes, 19 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 stls
How can you hit the most valuable shot of the game and not be SVP? You can’t, that’s the answer. Though, it wasn’t just the game winner that made Lonnie SVP against the Jazz, he was great throughout the game. He was aggressive with his shooting and attacked the hoop when the Jazz would run him off the three-point line. Also, he is seeing the floor much better than seasons past, by finding open guys for easy looks when driving downhill.
1st - Dejounte Murray - 43pts
2nd - Derrick White - 27pts
3rd - Devin Vassell - 21pts
4th - Keldon Johnson - 20pts
5th - Jakob Poeltl - 17pts
6th - Lonnie Walker IV - 10pts
7th - Thaddeus Young - 9pts
8th - Bryn Forbes - 8pts
9th - Doug McDermott - 7pts
10th - Drew Eubanks - 2pts
11th - Jock Landale, Josh Primo, Keita Bates-Diop & Tre Jones - 1pt each
Next Game: @ Sacramento on Sunday
The Spurs continue their four game road trip with a game against the struggling and shorthanded Sacramento Kings. This is a great chance for the Spurs to already secure a minimum 0.500 road trip.