Keldon Johnson's fourth-quarter heroics snaps Spurs' historic losing streak

San Antonio Spurs v Utah Jazz
San Antonio Spurs v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

The San Antonio Spurs finally ended their franchise-worst 16-game losing streak as they survived the Utah Jazz in a thriller. Not only did they evade going winless on the Rodeo Road Trip, but they recorded their first victory when trailing by double-digits, doing so on their 45th attempt this season and putting that curse to rest.

Although their first dub in over a month was an impressive team effort, no one was more instrumental to the Silver and Black finishing February on a positive note than Keldon Johnson. The 23-year-old small forward scored a team-high 25 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and his punctual crunch-time heroics sealed the deal.

Johnson has drained 67.1% of his 164 attempts in the restricted area since the new year started, a better percentage than Anthony Davis, Ja Morant, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on a higher volume than Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, and Rudy Gobert. And he put his uber-efficient forays to the hoop on full display in Salt Lake City.

The fourth-year slasher took over the contest at the 3:36 mark of the final frame, so let's look at the five possessions that pushed the Spurs past the finish line down the stretch.

San Antonio got things moving with a step-up pick-and-roll between Zach Collins and Johnson, creating an opening for the latter to get downhill and draw a foul on Walker Kessler. Though that was only the third personal for Walker Kessler, Collins would lure the rook into numbers four and five less than a minute later, forcing him to dial back his physicality.

The following sequence begins with a zipper cut from Johnson that flows into a high pick-and-roll with Collins. Despite creating no advantage from that action, Keldon initiates contact with Kris Dunn and converts a leaning floater that regains the lead for the Spurs.

Keldon then snags a massive defensive rebound over a tandem of seven-footers before using another pick-and-roll to create a driving lane toward the basket. Though Kessler has been one of the best drop-coverage shot blockers in the league, Johnson shows excellent situational awareness to realize the rookie must challenge his layup vertically or risk fouling out.

With the game hanging in the balance and a four-point cushion, Johnson again comes to San Antonio's rescue. After patiently letting a ram double ball screen develop, he capitalizes on the chaos caused by all the moving parts, nailing another runner when Kessler cuts off his angle to the rim.

And Johnson put the nail in the coffin, beating a snoozing Markkanen with a quick rip off the catch for a teardrop deep inside the paint to cap a rock-solid performance. He completed the fourth quarter with nine points, zero turnovers, and one trip to the charity stripe on 4-of-6 shooting.

Nobody is rushing to anoint Keldon as the king of the clutch after a single successful late-game outing, especially considering the Jazz entered this matchup with sixth-worst Defensive Rating in the NBA. Regardless, these breakthroughs are the developmental stepping stones that might one day lead to a more significant coming-out party for the big-bodied bruiser.

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