Throughout the season, the San Antonio Spurs were put to the test with pivotal clutch situations and in these moments, they rose to the occasion.
Closing out games is one of the most important aspects of professional basketball, which is why San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich puts such a heavy emphasis on it. No matter how you play throughout the game, there will always be an opportunity to battle back in the fourth quarter — Especially in the modern game with a rapid pace and more frequent scoring.
During the 2019-20 season, the San Antonio Spurs found themselves in many clutch scenarios with time winding down and a victory within reach. It’s not necessarily an ideal place to be, but it’s where players are tested and forced to perform or accept their loss. Since this Spurs team was in many battles with a close margin of victory, they needed some clutch performances along the way.
Some were prettier than others, but there’s no denying that the San Antonio Spurs managed some impressive victories this season. Their talent may not have been up to par with what we’re used to from them, but this was a team that competed with the best of them in key moments. Their most prolific moments came in games that went down to the wire, forcing unlikely heroes into the spotlight.
Ultimately, the Spurs’ best clutch performances boiled down to unique games each with its nature. An unlikely hero emerged to help their team finish out a victory despite the odds being against them. Those are always the moments that linger with the fans when a season is all said and done.
Next: No. 3 — DeMar shows up and shows out
3. Bubble DeRozan works Memphis in the 4th for a San Antonio Spurs win.
When you think of fourth-quarter performers, the name DeMar DeRozan doesn’t necessarily rank near the top of the list. However, we saw a different version of DeRozan in the Orlando restart, taking a backseat to his younger cohorts before exploding in fourth quarters to close out the San Antonio Spurs’ games.
San Antonio held onto a sizeable lead heading into the fourth quarter of this game against the Memphis Grizzlies, but let it slip without much time to go. It was a quiet night for DeRozan, who logged only 10 of his team’s 86 field goal attempts. However, he recognized it was go-time as Memphis clawed back on an offensive explosion for Rookie of the Year Ja Morant.
DeRozan scored eight of his 14 points in the final four minutes of the game including two step-back jumpers and a layup. Ultimately, the game came down to the final possession when DeRozan began sizing up Dillon Brooks with mere seconds on the clock. The veteran baited an inexperienced Brooks with his signature pump fake, leading to two clutch free throws with a second left in the contest.
He proceeded to drain each of his free throws, leading to a Spurs win. This is just one moment to symbolize what was an overall spectacular run for DeRozan, who finished second to Damian Lillard (86) in points scored in the fourth quarter during the eight seeding games with 62. Furthermore, he made a whopping 75 percent of his shots in the fourth quarter in his seven seeding games — Better than any player with at least 15 fourth-quarter attempts in that span.
The narrative that DeRozan isn’t a clutch performer becomes weaker by the season.
Next: No. 2 — Patty takes over in Mexico
2. Patty punctuates an OT victory in Mexico City for the San Antonio Spurs.
Time and time again, veteran point guard Patty Mills proves to be the heart and soul of the San Antonio Spurs. No one moment exemplified this more than his clutch performance against the Phoenix Suns in Ciudad de México. The two teams faced off in front of a packed crowd for one of the NBA’s few games south of the border and Mills exploded.
On the night, Mills had 26 points including six triples to lead the Spurs and secure a win. A spiritual leader for this team, Mills means more to the team than his output is going to say with each passing game. However, there are always nights when he gets hot and when he’s in that zone, Mills becomes borderline unstoppable. This was one of those nights.
His best efforts forced Pop’s hand, giving Patty 32 minutes in place of his teammate, Bryn Forbes who went 0-for-8 in his 15 minutes of play. With the game tied up at 119 as overtime drew to a close, Derrick White inbounded to LaMarcus Aldridge on the elbow, who handed the ball off to Mills while setting a screen to get Patty loose. The energetic guard took one long dribble, spotted up near the free-throw line and drained an off-balance mid-range jumper with 0.3 remaining on the clock to seal the Spurs’ victory.
Instead of celebrating and getting lost in the moment, his focus remained on finishing off that final three-tenths of a second. He very easily could’ve gotten fired up, but he kept laser-focused on making sure the Suns wouldn’t get a shot off while he’s caught lacking. Phoenix called a timeout and failed to get a final shot off — Mills wins it for the San Antonio Spurs.
Next: No. 1 — The Lonnie Walker breakout game
1. Lonnie shows us what he’s got against the San Antonio Spurs’ rival Rockets.
This was the moment that San Antonio Spurs fans waiter to see from sophomore Lonnie Walker IV. There’s a solid case for this as the best moment of the season for the San Antonio Spurs as a team and for the fans since it brought such great excitement and a refreshing aura to the team.
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Entering the fourth quarter with a 16-point deficit, it was obvious that the San Antonio Spurs needed a miracle to pull off this victory. There were signs in the third that helped San Antonio regain some momentum including some smart plays from Walker on each end of the floor, but nothing that necessarily insinuated what was to come.
After scoring zero points in the first half, Walker erupted for an 18-point fourth-quarter including the Spurs’ final eight points: An alley-oop layup and two clutch 3-pointers in just a minute and seven seconds. He guarded James Harden one-on-one with less than 24 seconds remaining in regulation, forcing a missed 3-pointer before pulling up on a 28-foot triple to tie the game.
Shoutout to Jakob Poeltl for swatting Harden’s layup attempt with 0.8 left on the clock. It was a crucial defensive play that sent the game into overtime.
Even though he began to cool off, Walker made some crucial plays that resulted in a Spurs win throughout the two overtime periods. He had done his part and the team won because of it.
San Antonio Spurs fans are hopeful it was only a sign of what’s to come.