San Antonio ended its 11 game losing streak with a convincing home victory over its I-10 rivals. The two Western Conference cellar-dwellers treated the audience to an uneven, yet exciting show in the first half. Tre Jones and Keldon Johnson supplied the majority of the Spurs’ offense by scoring on 16 of their first 18 attempts, and the Spurs followed that up by punishing the inexperienced Rockets 39-23 in the third quarter.
San Antonio’s Johnson (32 points and 7 rebounds) and Jones (26 points and 5 assists) paced a lineup missing key contributors Devin Vassell, Jakob Poeltl, and Jeremy Sochan that shot over 55% and had strong support from its bench - Doug McDermott (12 points), Josh Richardson (12 points), and Charles Bassey (10 points and 4 blocks).
Houston’s youngsters were led by Jabari Smith, Jr. (career high 23 points and 4 rebounds) and Alperen Sengun (16 points and 11 rebounds) who paced all five starters in double-figuring scoring. The teams are now tied in the standings and 2023 draft sweepstakes.
- Someone on the PtR staff should tweet Brett Brown face memes.
- Those Fiesta unis may very well be the second-best (c’mon, Wemby or Scoot?) thing to come out of this season. If teal doesn’t do it for you, would you believe we had an all-white court at one time?
- Sean Elliott likened Houstin big Alperen Sengun to “Nikola Jokic-lite” - I can see it.
- Rockets vet Eric Gordon should have been on a Spurs roster at some point. The rest of Houston’s roster would be a great playground for Charles Barkley’s “Who He Play For?” game.
- Keldon’s Kitchen: Keldon seemed content contributing within the flow of the San Antonio offense in the first half, while not forcing up stuff from distance, to the tune of eight straight field goals.
- PtR”s Final Score Tanking Standings: Gary (5 losses), Carolina, Noah, Mark, (tie) Bruno/Casey/Daniel/Renee.
- Bassey Beastmode: The mode seems mostly to apply to home games, but his livewire energy was evident throughout his minutes. The emphatic blocks all came in meaningful moments and especially energized his teammates and crowd.
- Zach Collins demonstrates nimble footwork in the paint.
- Tre Jones hit a nice early stepback jumper, which boded well for his spacing on the attack later on.
- Though a very solid shooter, Smith, Jr. doesn’t seem to show much know-how on defense or on the boards.
- Rockets guard Daishen Nix looks like Derek Fisher’s bulkier nephew.
- Sequence of the Game #1: Johnson, in the early minutes, did the Ginobiliesque “clutch-the ball-with-two-hands-while-prepping-himself for-a-gather” to slam home a dunk on rookie Jabari Smith.
- Sequence of the Game #2: Late in the third quarter, after he earned his third block, Bassey was a recipient of a Richardson lob for a jam.
- Whoopsie Sequence of the Game #1: Late in the opening frame, on a badly tossed lob attempt from Josh Richardson to Charles Bassey, Isaiah Roby took the carom and spoonfed Johnson for his most emphatic two-handed jam of the season.
- Former point guard Terry Porter was celebrated between quarters. He facilitated the transition from the plodding late-90’s Spurs teams to the Big 3 era that dominated in the 00’s. Some highlights: “the players, the friendships, and the championship culture,” Elliott exclaimed “we hated you guys (referring to Porter and Jerome Kersey)” “(Porter recalled that) You guys had us!” (referring to Game 7 of the 1990 Western Conference semis where Rod Strickland blew the series by throwing a no-look over-the-head pass that sailed over Elliott and then committed a flagrant foul on Clyde Drexler to gift the Blazers the winning points. [Yes, still a very fresh memory]
- Collins willed home two early buckets, while Johnson asserted himself for three impressive buckets. Sengun pulled down several offensive rebounds to extend possessions and make plays for others. The teams generated 33 points in five minutes, which of course jinxed them to only 12 more over the next four. After a Spurs 8-2 run, Houston answered with its own 8-0 surge and exited the period up 29-24.
- A bad pass ended San Antonio’s first possession in the second, resembling a handful of the ones in the prior stanza. Jones flew down the lane for two quick layups and a smooth three, while forcing a turnover at the other end. Back-to-back Rockets/Spurs possessions ended with airballs. The teams traded blows thereafter. A Richardson three and Johnson layup again gave the Spurs the lead, while Houston had several missed dunks. Johnson’s first three from the Bruce Bowen corner connected. A supremely entertaining half ended insultingly with a Green desperation chuck, putting the Rockets back up three.
- At the start of the third, Romeo Langford’s three bounced sky-high before falling through the net, but Sengun and Smith, Jr. scored easily in response. Johnson hit two more threes, and Malaki Branham added one of his own to put the hosts up three. Sengun flattened Collins with a leading elbow on a dunk attempt and was rightfully called for an offensive foul. After Collins left the game, Bassey got his third block on a Sengun floater. A Richardson three briefly extended the Spurs up, and Bassey’s fourth swat preserved the lead. Nix drew a technical for shoving Isaiah Roby in the back, but a pair of McDermott threes and two layups by Jones made it a 90-77 lead heading into the fourth.
- Collins thankfully returned to action and converted a nifty hook to start the fourth. Bassey hit a midrange bunny to bring more people onto his bandwagon. Houston’s long-range shots stopped falling, which allowed the Spurs to get up as much as 20.
- In the waning moments, universally loved John Wick villain Boban Marjanovic made Collins look dimunitive on two straight hooks to cap a Rockets 8-0 run. However, the Houston run came too late.
For the Rockets fan’s perspective (and one of the better site names), please visit The Dream Shake.
San Antonio heads out east to take on Bam Adebayo and the Miami Heat Saturday afternoon at 4:00 PM CDT.