The San Antonio Spurs had an exhilarating back-and-forth contest against the Miami Heat on Sunday night. However, the shorthanded youngsters failed to match their more experienced opponent down the stretch, losing 118-113. Who were the notable studs and duds from their latest suspenseful loss this season?
Stud: Malaki Branham
With Tre Jones out on Sunday due to a hamstring injury, Gregg Popovich tasked Malaki Branham with backup point guard duties. The second-year swingman had an outstanding night off the bench, recording 13 points on an exceptional 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range. He also notched a career-high seven assists with only a single turnover.
Branham held his own as a floor general and was an obvious plus for a Spurs team that has relied on Jones to steady their offense all season. His five assists in the fourth quarter alone helped keep San Antonio in contention in the clutch. If Malaki can continue this level of play, he could become a valuable piece for the Silver and Black in the long run.
Stud: Keldon Johnson
For most of the game, Keldon Johnson looked fantastic. He took a step back as a scorer and allowed the game to come to him in a lesser role than the one he played last season. Through the first three quarters, Johnson had 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, and a block on 6-of-12 shooting, including 2-of-5 from deep.
With Johnson focused on crashing the boards instead of initiating the offense, San Antonio won the rebound battle over Miami. He also played unselfish ball and found his teammates in favorable spots. Despite struggling to accept a lesser load in recent games, this outing was promising for Keldon. He finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds in his first double-double this season.
Give credit where it's due. Johnson played winning basket heading into the final frame. However...