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San Antonio at Houston, Final Score: Spurs survive the shorthanded Rockets, 111-106

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The Silver and Black outlast their I-10 rival on the road.

San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs defeated the surging Houston Rockets, 111-106, handing the hosts just their second loss in two-and-a-half weeks and climbing into fifth-place in the tightly-contested Western Conference playoff race.

DeMar DeRozan pushed the Silver and Black to victory with 30 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Meanwhile, John Wall and Eric Gordon combined for 53 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists to pace H-Town.

Observations

  • Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl replaced the ill Lonnie Walker IV and injured LaMarcus Aldridge in San Antonio’s starting lineup. This duo last started alongside each other in the Spurs’ penultimate game of the NBA Restart last season, which coincidentally also came versus the Houston Rockets.
  • The Rockets are virtually unrecognizable from a year ago. John Wall, Victor Oladipo, and Christian Wood are the new faces of the franchise. And Stephen Silas has replaced former head coach Mike D’Antoni. The first-time lead play-caller has his guys dedicated to defense for the first time in what feels like forever, and Houston has posted a league-best 102.8 Defensive Rating in the 12 games since shipping James Harden across conferences. Although the Spurs pulled out the dub, Houston held San Antonio to 111 points in a low-scoring affair.
  • Keldon Johnson put San Antonio on the scoreboard with a pretty little floater in the paint, and that marks the ninth time the second-year wing has scored the opening points of the game for the Spurs. It doesn’t seem to correlate much with winning or how well he performs on that particular evening, though I thought it was a fun fact worth sharing. He also leads the team in this obscure statistic.
  • Jakob Poeltl has been a train-wreck from the charity stripe this season, so it’s only appropriate he knocked down consecutive crunch-time free throws to break into the scoring column and tie the game.
  • DeMar DeRozan was outstanding once again, scoring a team-high 30 points and carrying a sputtering Spurs offense past the finish line for their 13th victory of the season. The veteran swingman also added eight rebounds, seven assists and committed a singular turnover in 37 minutes. Houston had no answer for his array of ball fakes and turnaround jumpers, and he might be on his way to the fifth All-Star appearance of his career.
  • From missed backcourt violations and dunks that didn’t count, the I-10 rivalry has had no shortage of officiating-induced drama. This time a botched shot-clock violation nearly added another chapter to the extended history of bad blood between these two fanbases. Thankfully the Spurs caught a break as the referees corrected what could have been a costly mistake.
  • The Silver and Black hosted a block party in the first quarter, swatting five shots in the opening frame. Jakob, Dejounte, and Vassell contributed a denial apiece, and Drew Eubanks led the charge, notching two quick rejections on back-to-back defensive possessions.
  • Speaking of Eubanks, the third-year center had himself a spectacular outing off the pine. Drew scored a career-high 12 points to go with three rebounds, three blocks, and one rim-rattling posterization.
  • Houston used their coach’s challenge early in the fourth quarter on a charge called against John Wall, but it was unsuccessful. While it was a little shocking Silas spent his challenge after Wall blatantly bulldozed through Rudy Gay, it was equally surprising that coach Pop didn’t use his lone challenge on what appeared to be an incorrect blocking call against Derrick White.
  • Dejounte Murray found Patty Mills with a head-up buzzer-beating mid-court pass to give the Spurs a four-point lead heading into halftime. San Antonio was up by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, but sloppy turnovers mixed with a surge from the Rockets swiftly erased the double-digit cushion. While fans were probably left shaking their heads in frustration, it was nice to see Mills and Murray mitigate some of the damage on an exciting below-the-rim alley-oop.
  • Devin Vassell threw down a vicious one-handed slam after a perfectly placed assist from Patty Mills on a three-on-one fastbreak. The spindly rookie has struggled to finish in traffic this season but had no problem rocking the rim with a clear runway in front of him. The dunk injected some much-needed life into a game in which both teams seemingly went through the motions for stretches.

For the Rockets fan’s perspective, visit The Dream Shake.

The San Antonio Spurs return to the AT&T Center Monday night to kick off the first night of back-to-back with Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.