The San Antonio Spurs cleaned up in a must-win against the rival Houston Rockets in the best game of rookie Keldon Johnson’s pro career.
We knew that the No. 19 pick would be a work in progress for the San Antonio Spurs, but it’s the No. 29 pick who’s asserted himself in his rookie year. Today was an incredible culmination of the rookie’s work as the Spurs topped the Houston Rockets 123-105. The rookie came off the bench with a team-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting including a perfect 3-for-3 from deep and five of five from the charity stripe.
Whether it be on the drive or as a jump shooter, Johnson made his presence felt everywhere on the court to lead the team. Beyond just the scoring, he was wonderful on defense and double-doubled with 11 rebounds in only 26 minutes. Whether the team was ready for not, Keldon Johnson isn’t just the future — He’s ready to compete now.
Johnson wasn’t alone in his well-rounded effort: Seven Spurs finished in double figures with the team shooting 49.5 percent from the field, 40.6 percent from deep and 90 percent from the charity stripe. As per usual, DeMar DeRozan was fluid with 23 points, six rebounds and four assists on 9-of-13 shooting. You know what you’re going to get from DeRozan as a scorer on most nights, but the 31-year-old has played his best defense in a Spurs uniform during this stretch.
Keldon has a (new) career-high 24 PTS and counting! ? pic.twitter.com/QE5zfbB5bS
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 11, 2020
The same can be said for starting guards Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, who asserted themselves matched up against a perimeter-oriented Rockets team. White played like a guy coming off of a knee contusion, so his shooting percentages were low and his assist-to-turnover ratio was worse than usual with six dimes and three turnovers. Still, his perimeter defense was great and his hustle was magnificent against speedy guards and wings.
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Murray himself was a spectacle to watch. Instead of forcing shots and trying to take over, Dejounte let the game come to him. He took 10 shots, made five and scored 11 points including a contested 3-pointer. Murray dished out a game-high seven assists while getting his teammates in positions to score or make a second pass for an easy bucket. Turnovers were an issue for him as well with three of them, but his perimeter defense against Russell Westbrook was excellent. He played a major part in forcing Russ into seven turnovers and 8-of-17 shooting. He’s turning into a fine, young floor general at this point.
Houston characteristically took 48 threes, which was more than half of their field goal attempts. Still, the Spurs managed to limit Houston to 29.2 percent shooting from that range and 40.4 percent from the field. San Antonio crushed the boards as well, grabbing 59 to Houston’s 37 including a plus-five margin on the offensive glass.
The Spurs’ fate isn’t totally in their hands. Winning today put them in position to make a run for the ninth seed, but the Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies need some losses to get San Antonio situated in the playoff standings.
All we can do now is sit back and root for the Sixers, Celtics and Mavs.