The San Antonio Spurs outlasted the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets, 106-98, snapping a five-game losing streak in one of their best defensive performances of the season. They nagged opposing ball handlers, shut down the three-point line, and made timely rotations, forcing 21 turnovers that turned into premium fastbreak opportunities.
Keldon Johnson led the charge for the Silver and Black with a career-high 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four steals, while Jeremy Sochan pitched in 16 points and four boards. T.J. Warren paced Brooklyn with 19 points off the bench, and Ben Simmons notched ten points, ten rebounds, and 11 assists for his first triple-double of the season.
- The Spurs recognized Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, Jaque Vaughn, and Sean Marks before the game tipped off, harkening back to an era of basketball when San Antonio was a perennial contender. This young roster has plenty of capable role players, but they are still searching for a franchise cornerstone to lead them out of lottery territory.
- San Antonio has fielded a historically porous defense this season, but the hoops gods gifted them a much-welcomed night off from defending Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Between their scoring and assists, the superstar duo has accounted for 80.7 points of the Brooklyn offense this season, an almost impossible number to replicate with spot starters and role players.
- Jeremy Sochan entered the league with practically zero positive shooting indicators, making threes, free throws, and floaters at a ghastly clip in his lone season at Baylor. Those woes followed him to the league, where his early results at the charity stripe were so horrible that head coach Gregg Popovich encouraged him to switch to a one-hander. Despite what conventional wisdom might suggest, his midrange jumpers have looked surprisingly smooth. And the rookie continued defying logic, nailing two off-the-dribble attempts from the nail in the first quarter.
- Things got chippy between Markieff Morris and Jeremy Sochan when the rookie started chirping at the veteran journeyman after he knocked down a pair of spot-up three-pointers. Their verbal back-and-forth turned into a physical altercation as a deliberate body slam from Morris forced the refs to get involved with the forwards tangled on the ground. Sochan earned a flagrant for his WWE takedown, Morris received an offensive foul for his moving screen, and the Nets emerged reinvigorated by the skirmish. It seems like Markieff will join his twin brother Marcus in San Antonio’s black book.
- The first half of action from the Spurs and Nets was about as sloppy as basketball can get in the NBA. The cross-conference opponents notched 19 turnovers, 26 fouls, and a couple of airballs on 37-of-94 (39.4%) shooting in the first 24 minutes. Their surplus of errors was comical enough that any number of them may warrant a spot on the next episode of Shaqtin’ a Fool. At the very least, you could replay their blunders with Yakety Sax blaring in the background and have a great time.
- Keldon Johnson was on a cold spell in the three games leading up to tonight’s matchup, shooting an abhorrent 19-of-53 (35.8%) from the field during that stretch. Despite his struggles, the fourth-year combo forward averaged 20.3 points in those contests by getting to the free-throw line seven times a night. Johnson remained frosty against the Nets, though he kept finding ways to earn trips to the charity stripe. Keldon has always been a physical straight-line driver who embraced contact, and the officials are starting to reward him with whistles for laying his body on the line.
- The Silver and Black held an opponent under 100 points for the first time in two months and just the third time this season. They are undefeated in the games where they pull off this feat, and hopefully, tonight is the start of better execution on this end of the floor. Although there should be an asterisk indicating the Spurs didn’t have to worry about KD or Kyrie, they still deserve credit for their intensity and attention to detail.
- Blake Wesley dropped 29 points in a breakout game with the Austin Spurs less than 24 hours ago, yet that phenomenal performance wasn’t enough for the rookie to receive a single minute in his promotion to the big league club. Like the hundreds of youngsters before him, the 19-year-old guard will have to earn a role under head coach Gregg Popovich. With the trade deadline approaching, perhaps a move or two will clear a path for Wesley to find the hardwood in San Antonio. Regardless, Blake is someone fans should be excited to see.
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