The San Antonio Spurs humiliated the hapless Houston Rockets, 131-106, as they jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Although their interstate rival has been one of the worst teams in the league, this victory could be a huge confidence booster as they tackle the Rodeo Road Trip.
Keldon Johnson paced the Silver and Black with a season-high 28 points to go with seven rebounds and two steals. Jakob Poeltl had 21 points, ten boards, and three blocks. Dejounte Murray and Doug McDermott notched 19 points apiece. Josh Christopher led the Rockets with a career-high 23 points.
- Dejounte Murray looked more like a free safety practicing a tip drill than an NBA point guard as he stole a horrible pass from Jae’Sean Tate before finding Doug McDermott in transition for one of the best finishes of the season. The 30-year-old forward isn’t exactly known for his gravity-defying hops, but he cradled the rock and hung in the air for a layup that harkened back to the days of Julius Erving. The reverse had enough jelly on it to spin off the glass and into the hoop, but none of it would have been possible if he didn’t reel in a misfired ball like a wide receiver.
- The Spurs have committed the fourth-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA this season (12.7 TO), but they struggled to take care of the ball and coughed it up nine times in the first half alone. Although San Antonio shot 54.3% from the field as they headed into the locker room, Houston used all those giveaways to trim a 13-point deficit to a one-possession game. The Silver and Black did a much better job in the second half, committing only three turnovers.
- Houston gave up a season-worst 82 points in the paint during their last meeting with the Spurs, and head coach Stephen Silas told journalists he tried to drive home how important it would be to fortify the interior this go-round. Unfortunately for the second-year playcaller, his young guns didn’t seem to process that message as they gave up 40 points in the paint by halftime. The run-of-the-mill basketball fan may not understand how horrific that number is, so why don’t we put it into perspective? The average NBA team only scores 46.2 points in the paint each game. If you were wondering, the Rockets cleaned up their act in the second half, though giving up 68 points in the paint is a great way to ensure a loss.
- Zach Collins saw his first NBA action in 537 days when subbed into the game with 5:21 remaining in the first quarter. The 24-year-old center spent the last couple of weeks getting back up to game speed with the Austin Spurs, and all the sweat equity he built in the G League paid off in his San Antonio debut. His first defensive possession ended in a shot-clock violation, his first offensive possession resulted in a pair of free throws, and he knocked down his first field goal in nearly two years on the next play. The six-eleven big man stayed active throughout the contest, nailing a three-pointer, pulling off a smooth up-and-under, and hitting Derrick White in stride with a perfect shovel pass. What a performance from a guy that has worked tirelessly to get back to the highest level of professional basketball.
- Respectfully, the Rockets are hands down one of the worst teams in the league. All it takes is one game to see how dysfunctional they are on both ends of the court. Between defensive miscommunications, disorganized offensive set-pieces, countless air-balls, and plenty of off-putting body language, Houston is essentially the antithesis of the statement “if you don’t like that, you don’t like NBA basketball.” As a lifelong Spurs fan, I’m glad the good guys get four shots at beating up on their interstate rival, who just so happens to be the worst club in the Western Conference. However, as an analyst that appreciates fundamental sound hoops, this division matchup has been agonizing to watch.
- San Antonio improved to 11-12 when utilizing their standard starting rotation of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Doug McDermott, and Jakob Poeltl. The starters dominated a sorry Rockets squad tonight, but as you can probably tell by their record, that group isn’t perfect. That said, having their opening lineup intact affords the Spurs a sense of normalcy without having to compromise their second unit. Strong benches have been a hallmark of the Gregg Popovich era, and this season is no different as they sport the fifth-highest point differential in the NBA (+384).
- Can you smell the impending All-Star appearance for Dejounte Murray? With each passing game and a couple of guaranteed injury replacement spots opening up, his odds of becoming a first-time All-Star feel pretty darn good right about now. The 25-year-old floor general stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 19 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists, and four steals while orchestrating San Antonio’s offense to perfection. If Murray remains as hot as he was in January when he took home a Western Conference Player of the Month nomination, he should be the obvious choice for a plane ride to Cleveland.
- Keldon Johnson was too much for the Rockets to handle. The human embodiment of a bowling ball bludgeoned his way to the rim against a horrendous Houston defense while taking advantage of miscues to cut his way towards the basket for easy buckets. And after going 1-of-8 from long distance against the Heat, Keldon rediscovered his range, draining a trifecta of three-pointers at the AT&T Center. Johnson finished the night with a season-high 28 points, and hopefully, he can carry this momentum with him as the Spurs start their annual Rodeo Road Trip on Wedensday.
- Head coach Gregg Popovich picked up his 1500th career head coaching win as the Spurs decimated their interstate adversary. He also climbed another game closer to becoming the winningest regular-season skipper in NBA history. But if you add playoff victories to the equation, nobody has won more contests than Pop.
- I’m going to ask you to think of NBA players like Pokemon for just a few seconds, so bear with me. Fabricio Oberto evolves into Rasho Nesterovic, who evolves into Tiago Splitter, who evolves into Jakob Poeltl. The sixth-year center is far from a superstar, but he is the fully actualized version of the quintessential Gregg Popovich role-playing center. Though there have been rumors that San Antonio is willing to part ways with Poeltl for a first-rounder and a quality player, PATFO should think twice before letting him go for anything less than a fringe All-Star. Jakob dropped 21 points, ten rebounds, three assists, and three blocks in his return from concussion protocols, and it is no surprise the good guys handled Houston without any hiccups with him back in the lineup.
For the Rockets fans’ perspective, please visit The Dream Shake.