The San Antonio Spurs sent the AT&T Center fans home happy in their final game in San Antonio before they embark on their annual rodeo road trip. The recipients of the beating were the Houston Rockets.
The contrast between offenses were stark early on, the Rockets were settling for threes, not even trying to graze the paint. While the home team were crashing to the hoop with aggression. Dejounte Murray, who missed the previous game with a sore wrist was back for this one, and once again the All-Star caliber point guard was doing a bit of everything. In a one minute, 6-0 run, Dejounte contributed four points, two rebounds and one assists as the Spurs started to pull away. Zach Collins checked in to the game to make his San Antonio debut with five minutes on the clock. On his first offensive possession he was able to get to the line and make one of two free throws. Then on his second possession he scored his first field goal after grabbing an offensive rebound. The Spurs were forcing turnovers at a nice rate while using the transition game for easy buckets. At the end of one the Silver & Black were up; 33-25.
Stephan Silas must have said something in the huddle between quarters because the Rockets started the next period with much more urgency. They were applying more pressure defensively and the Spurs were having some trouble adjusting. Both teams were trying to play a fast paced, physical basketball game but at times it turned into a bit of a chaotic carless encounter. This benefited Houston more and they were able to tie up the game with four minutes left in the half. San Antonio started to match the physicality of the Rockets and they took advantage with offensive rebounds and buckets down low. They held their first quarter lead into the half, but it was now down to three.
An 8-0 run started the quarter for the home team with the Rockets players looking as if they didn’t know the half had started. Keldon was heating up with two straight threes that he absolutely swished. Both of which came in transition with the Spurs dominating in the full court. Houston didn’t just need to worry about the three-point line but also the paint because Jakob Poeltl was dominating their big men. The Austrian center was grabbing every rebound and putting them back over multiple defenders for second chance points. A 40-point third quarter meant the game was nearly out of reach for the Rockets as the Spurs went into the fourth with a 20-point lead.
The refs seemed all night that they wanted to steal the spotlight, but in the fourth it was particularly bad. In the first three minutes there were eight fouls called, four for either team. This didn’t allow either side to gain any momentum for the first half of the quarter. It was then up to Doug McDermott to hit the dagger shots to end the game for good and he did it with back to back threes which also gave the Spurs their largest lead (24-points) of the game at that point. The rest of the contest was glorified garbage time with both head coaches emptying their benches as time winded down on a 131-106, Spurs victory.
- 540. After one and a half years away from NBA action, Zach Collins returned. He also made his debut for the Spurs after joining on a three-year deal in the summer. Collins ended up with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 13 minutes. He showed his offensive versatility by hitting his only three-point attempt, scoring down low through contact, and even hitting a face up jumper in a defenders face. He provided a few nice dimes as well, one in particular to a cutting Derrick White. His defense was okay. Obviously not playing in a while was going to take an adjustment to get up to speed, and this showed when he got beat a few times to the rim. Off-ball he did a nice job of playing passing lanes and was a big help on the boards, something the Spurs badly need. Overall, Zach Collins was a positive and the fact that this was his first game in 540 days and he played that well is incredibly promising for his play the rest of the season.
- Bye Bye AT&T Center. The Spurs are off on their annual rodeo road trip and will leave their home for the rest of the month, the trip will be broken up by the All-Star weekend. The Spurs had enjoyed 12 of the previous 14 games at home but were only able to go 5-9 in that stretch. If San Antonio wants to make the play-in they will need to hope they can grab a few extra wins on the road that they couldn’t do so at home.
- 20th Win. With the win over the Rockets the Spurs got their 20th of the season. Some could argue that the Silver & Black’s record is not what it should be, especially when looking at their point differential ( -0.4). The Spurs are much closer to 0.500 (16-18) when they have their three best players, DJ, Jak & Derrick. With Zach Collins back the Spurs currently have no long term injuries and if they can stay fit for an extended run they could have a shot at making the Play-In game. Time will tell.
Play of the Game
Unfortunately, there is no room for Doug McDermott on the SVP rankings for the game, so as consolation he gets play of the game:
The steal. The finish.— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 5, 2022
You love to see it pic.twitter.com/Ngn4wr3zZ4
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
3rd place (1 point): Dejounte Murray | 35 mins, 19 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals
Another game, another place in the SVP rankings. Dejounte retuned after a one game absence and put on another great display as he makes his plea to Adam Silver to select him to the All-Star game. It felt like DJ had 15+ assists as he was constantly creating great looks for his teammates. His scoring came in bursts and defensively he also came up with loose balls and made sure to turn it straight into transition opportunities.
2nd place (2 points): Keldon Johnson | 34 mins, 28 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 11/17 fgs
Keldon had a season high against the Rockets and he did it efficiently as well. He didn’t just rely on his three but got downhill against closeouts to finish around the rim. And when he did shoot the outside shot he made it at a 50 percent clip. On defense he hustled Christian Wood all night long, that by the second half it seemed as if Wood didn’t want to be on the court anymore.
1st place (3 points): Jakob Poeltl | 33 mins, 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks
Jakob is monster for San Antonio and his recent stretch of play is probably the best of his career. You can’t get anything past him at the rim and when he blocks your shot he takes the air out of the ball. On offense his game is growing with confidence, he shoots a great percentage and even when he got fouled, he made three of his four free throws. If the rumors are true that teams are after Jakob then you would have to believe that if the Spurs do make a trade they will be getting the highest possible value because the man is on a tear right now.
1st - Dejounte Murray - 84pts
2nd - Jakob Poeltl - 51pts
3rd - Derrick White - 49pts
4th - Devin Vassell - 34pts
5th - Keldon Johnson - 33pts
6th - Lonnie Walker IV - 19pts
7th - Doug McDermott - 14pts
8th - Bryn Forbes - 12pts
9th - Thaddeus Young - 11pts
10th - Keita Bates-Diop - 5pts
11th - Jock Landale - 4pts
12th - Josh Primo - 3pts
13th - Drew Eubanks & Tre Jones - 2pts
14th - Devontae Cacok - 1pt
Next Game: @ Cleveland on Wednesday
The Spurs get a healthy four-day break before they start their eight game rodeo road trip at the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs came to town earlier in the year and beat the Silver & Black, so you can expect the Spurs to want to extract some revenge this time around.