With the game tied at 89 after three quarters, the San Antonio Spurs allowed just 21 points over the last 12 minutes and pulled out the win with a defensive clinic that flummoxed the electric Charlotte Hornets offense and kept their undefeated road trip going.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Spurs, who once again started the game slow and allowed their opponent to take a huge first quarter lead. But to give credit where it’s due, it wasn’t just about San Antonio not coming out quickly. The Hornets came to play, pushed the pace every opportunity they got, and made some outrageous three point shots — especially Malik Monk —although most of the credit for the hot start has to go to Terry Rozier. The former Celtic, coming off a 41 point performance Friday, started the game like a house on fire with 16 first quarter points including some silky dribble moves to the rim and step-back three pointers. The Hornets were up 16 at the end of the first, 33-17.
After another dismal start for the Spurs, they broke a record that had stood since 1987, scoring 47 points in the second quarter, and couldn’t miss if they tried. The Spurs offense was so deadly that they hit 15 of their first 16 shots. A lot of credit has to go to Dejounte Murray who created for himself and others, including some of his off the dribble mid-range jumpers. The Spurs took their first lead at 55-53 on a Jakob Poetl layup off a great dish from Lonnie Walker. San Antonio went into the locker room up 5.
San Antonio couldn’t repeat that quarter and save everyone some nail biting moments. The Hornets are a well-coached team, they have players that like playing with one another and work hard to win. Most of the rest of the game was a see-saw battle with each team taking and losing the lead.
The Spurs eventually got a bit of breathing room late in the fourth due to their hounding defense and the shot-making of their playmakers. San Antonio led 114-102 with just under 3 to play when the Hornets started a full court trap and went on a 6-0 run fueled by a few Spurs turnovers. Pop called a timeout and turned to DeMar DeRozan who had been focused on setting up his teammates. He finished with a mere eight points, but when he was needed most he got a mismatch with the Hornets center, took him to an island and hit the J right over him. With the ship righted, Charlotte didn’t threaten the rest of the way.
- Derrick White looks good. Mr All-round had his best game of the season. He had a season high 25 points in just under 27 minutes. The 25 points included 4/8 from the three-point line where he looks as comfortable as he was in the bubble. He also contributed 2 rebounds, 4 assists AND 4 STEALS. The most impressive moment of the game for him was after DeMar hit his late game jumper. The Hornets came back and countered with 2 points of their own. With the shot clock running down White attacked the rim and hit a dagger reverse layup to seal the game. BUT MORE, the Hornets rushed to the other end to try and keep the game alive but Derrick stepped in front of a driving Rozier and took a charge that put the game to rest.
- My favorite play of the game has to be from Keldon Johnson. He cut to the basket and received the ball, pump faked on the defender, took the contact and hit the and-1 BUT the ref didn’t count it. The ref said the foul was before the shot and was on the floor even after the protest from the Spurs players. So it was San Antonio ball from the side, it was passed in and then moved to Keldon at the top of the perimeter and Keldon drove once more, took the contact and got the and-1 right back. This is Keldon in a nutshell. If you don’t give it too him, he’s just gonna take it from you.
- Lonnie’s comeback performance: Skywalker has had a tough couple of weeks, with the Illness that made him miss a few games to then being relegated to the bench plus his increasingly poor performances had led to fans starting to question him. Sunday, Lonnie Walker showed what he can do when he is playing with pace, confidence and aggression. Walker IV finished with 11 points on an efficient 5/7 shooting. The best part of the game tonight was the way he played in the third, he had 7 points and played great defense numerous times on the Hornets best offensive player Terry Rozier. Keep it up, Lonnie.
- Once again Jakob Poetl was a difference maker. The fact that he played a team high 36 minutes tonight just shows how much Pop and the coaching staff think of him and the way he has been performing. He was brilliant once again, 4 BLOCKS AND 1 STEAL to go with 12 rebounds is exactly what the Spurs need from their big man. Plus, in the fourth he took a trip to the line and hit both free throws.
- Am I glad that LaMelo Ball is in the Eastern conference? Yes.
- Quick note: Dejoujnte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker played a combined 108 minutes of turnover free basketball.
Next game: @ Pistons on Tuesday
The Spurs will play the third of their seven straight road games when they visit the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. The Pistons have been playing well recently and the Spurs will need to be ready to go if they want to stay undefeated on this year’s rodeo road trip.