The Spurs returned home from a weeklong road trip to give the fans a belated Christmas present (at a belated time) in the form of a win over the surprisingly good Utah Jazz. The Spurs had control for most of the game thanks to some excellent team and individual basketball, but of course it wouldn’t be a Spurs game without a meltdown somewhere, this time late in the fourth quarter.
Tre Jones must have read The Athletic’s power rankings from this week, which listed him as the least reliable Spur in the clutch. Granted, it’s on a tiny sample size and with the acknowledgement that the ball rarely goes through him in clutch, but it did last night when the Spurs needed a calming influence in the chaotic final moments, and he channeled his inner Tony Parker and came through with two huge floaters in the final minute to prevent the Jazz from completing the comeback.
Jones wasn’t the only youngster who had a big night. Rookie Malaki Branham continued his recent breakout with a career-high 20 points off the bench, shooting 7-11 from the field and 2-4 from three. His confidence is overflowing right now, and it has done wonders for his offensive game.
The Spurs had a block party for much of the night, with four of their eight coming from Jakob Poeltl. He still appears to be on a minutes restriction, but he’s making the most of his time out there.
Recent pickup Stanley Johnson continues to give his all and be a pleasant surprise for the Spurs. He’s the first player who has truly taken advantage of the chance given with that 15th roster spot and just might be claiming it for keeps.
Jones didn’t just show up in the clutch. His outside shooting is slowly improving, and he made sure to hit this one so Devin Vassell’s beautiful behind-the-back assist would count.
It wasn’t Vassell’s most efficient 24 points ever, but he made Lauri Markkanen dance with this pretty move and contributed 8 assists on the night.
And of course, Big Body Keldon Johnson was out there doing his thing all evening on the way to 21 points on 9-14 shooting. The three wasn’t falling for him in this one, but he only took two attempts, and it’s good to see him recognizing nights when that part of his game isn’t there and going back to his bread and butter of banging his way to the rim.
KJ pullin' out the moves early pic.twitter.com/jJBt1qxydi— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 27, 2022
And finally, the full highlights. Get ready for more Spurs basketball tonight!