SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio lost one of their best players on one of the first plays of their game against the Dallas Mavericks. They went down by 18 with Dejounte Murray in the locker room, but rallied and competed to the end.
The Spurs went on a 14-2 run late in the fourth to make it a one-point game with a minute left, but couldn't find the shot to cap the run with a win. Luka Doncic put up 36 points, 11 assists and 9 boards, and he got enough help to beat San Antonio 122-117, making them 8-8 on the year.
After the game, coach Gregg Popovich said that he expects Dejounte to be fine after turning his ankle. He thought the team did a great job of digging out of an early hole and fighting until the final buzzer.
"I told them I was very proud of what they did tonight," Popovich said. "We dug a hole for ourselves like we often have starting games, but as the game went along we got more and more aggressive, more and more physical, communicated better, and they didn't give in after going down 18. I was real proud of them, they did a good job. Down the stretch we missed a couple shots, they made a couple shots, gametime."
DeMar DeRozan led that furious comeback with 29 points, scoring 8 in the final six minutes but missing a few opportunities as well. His continual attack was one of the reasons the Spurs stayed in the game, and was absolutely necessary with Murray out.
Another reason the Spurs kept it close was LaMarcus Aldridge's offense. He hit 4-7 from deep and knocked down a variety of looks, from camping in the corner to trailing the break to picking and popping to the arc. He finished with 26 and 9, a welcome sight after 4 and 3 in the previous loss. After the game he said it was the most fluid he's felt out there, and credited teammates with setting him up.
Dallas feasted in the pick and roll behind the individual brilliance of Doncic, who the Spurs actually held to 13-28 from the floor and 4-12 from the field. Aldridge was a frequent victim in the pick and roll, and spoke afterward about the challenge of slowing players of his caliber in those spots.
Rudy Gay had 16 points and hit 3-5 from three. He said that the team faced adversity and picked up the intensity accordingly with Murray out, but they just couldn't come up with the win after a rough start.
"Whatever it is we have to find a way to fight through it, because the beginning of games are killing us. "It's just been tough for us, so we have to find a way, I don't know if the coaching staff has to find something and relay it to us but, it's definitely been a problem."
Keldon Johnson's bull in a China shop approach generally serves him well, but forced him to the bench after he picked up his fifth foul on a charge.
With Doncic out of the game, San Antonio needed to push to get back in. Walker missed a good three, but a long board came out to Gay for a three. DeRozan had a shot in close to make it a six-point game, but missed, and Dallas got a transition dunk to push it to 10 and force a timeout from Pop.
DeRozan came out of the timeout and got to the line, then hit a tough jumper. Role players for Dallas continued to answer, keeping the lead at 10 as Doncic checked back in and pushed it to 12. Johnson came back in as well and answered at the rim.
After an Aldridge jumper to give him 22 points, Johnson drove through contact and got the call this time, hitting both to make it 111-102. After a good stop, Gay tried a corner three that missed, but Aldridge tipped the rebound in to cut it to 7.
Doncic got another layup in the pick and roll, and when DeRozan got to the line on the next possession he put the Spurs in the bonus for the final 4:26, but missed the first.
Patty Mills guarded Luka Doncic for a bit down the stretch, and on this possession he kicked out of a double team to an open shooter who missed. On the other end, Aldridge posted up and hit a shot in close to cut the deficit to 6.
Doncic beat Mills off the dribble, but when he tried a layup Aldridge swatted it. Patty got a good look at three in transition, but missed. San Antonio played great team defense and forced a shot clock violation.
DeRozan gave Doncic his fifth foul, and hit the free throws to make it 113-109. After another stop, DeRozan drew more free throws to make it a two-point game with just over two minutes to play.
More fantastic defense stopped Doncic from three again, and DeRozan drove against him again but didn't get the call this time.
Johnson bounded in for the board though, wrestled it away, and officials called a jump ball. The play was reviewed because his huge shoulder did some damage to the chin of Brunson, but it was incidental contact.
With five seconds left on the shot clock, Johnson won the tip and DeMar got a good look at three. He missed, but the ball went off Porzingis out of bounds.
DeRozan got a switch on Porzingis and got to the line again with a chance to tie, but he missed the first. The Spurs trailed by 1 with a minute left. Doncic got a bucket inside switched on Aldridge, and DeRozan missed a shot in close.
Doncic attacked the basket again, found an open Brunson in the corner for three, putting Dallas up 6 with 18 seconds left. Rudy Gay extended his range and extended hope with a long three to make it a one-possession game once more.
San Antonio fouled and sent Porzingis to the line, where he hit both to make it a five-point game. DeRozan got a quick two at the bucket, but the Spurs took too long to foul on the next inbound. Dallas won 122-117.
The Spurs made it a back-and forth affair in the second half, trading buckets until the Mavericks went on a 15-5 run.
As the Spurs were letting go of the rope, DeRozan grabbed it and hit a jumper before driving and finding Vassell for three.
San Antonio fell into a zone defense and got a few stops. Rudy Gay attacked on the other end, hitting a jumper and finding Poeltl on the roll for a layup.
A 7-0 run cut the deficit to 8, but Porzingis stopped the bleeding by dunking a lob home.
The Spurs trailed 95-85 heading to the fourth.
With Dejounte Murray in the locker room with an ankle sprain, rookie second-round pick Tre Jones got some burn in the second quarter. DeMar DeRozan attacked the rim pretty steadily throughout the game, and stepped up a bit as an initiator with Murray out.
Dallas opened the second quarter with a Porzingis three, then an and 1 from Jalen Brunson, then a three from Brunson, then a three from Tim Hardaway Jr., then another. Hardaway missed the next for their first miss of the period, but then Porzingis hit another open three. After Hardaway free throws, Dallas opened up a 57-40 lead. it was a 20-6 run for the Mavs to start the period, all without Doncic on the floor. There was a nice double denial at the rim by Gay and Jakob Oeltl, but that was the extent of the defense.
Keldon Johnson started to help the Spurs climb back, attacking the rim for free throws and a couple of hard-earned layups. Dallas kept finding soft spots in the defense, but DeMar kept finding answers at the line or inside 15 feet.
Doncic continued to get the shots he wanted in pick and roll against Aldridge, but he missed a few. After one, Lonnie got out in transition and pulled up for three. Doncic tried to pass to a cutter, but DeRozan stuck with the pass and deflected it. Lonnie pushed in transition, and Keldon finished an acrobatic layup in traffic.
After trailing by as many as 18, San Antonio went into the half down 68-58. In a rare occurrence for the Spurs, they had shot the ball 50% from three but lost the turnover battle, coughing it up six times and forcing just two.
Out of the gate, Keldon Johnson guarded Kristaps Porzingis and forced him out of the post. He set a screen for Luka Doncic, and the Spurs switched with Lonnie Walker IV following Porzingis on the pop to the arc. The 7'3" shooter launched an unblockable shot that fell.
After switching the next one as well, Dejounte Murray did his best to contest. Porzingis hit the shot, and Dejounte seemed to be in a good bit of pain after twisting his left ankle on the foot of Porzingis.
Doncic hit a jumper on a switch against Aldridge, then pushed Walker into the paint for a hook in close. Dallas opened the game on a 9-2 run, with the only San Antonio bucket an aggressive drive from Johnson.
Walker missed a running layup off the glass, then knocked down a triple. Dallas attacked Aldridge in pick and roll as much as possible, finding open shots there.
He made a nice contest as a help defender, and finished the ensuing fast break by dunking a feed from Walker.
Doncic continued to cook, answering a corner three from Aldridge with a pull-up triple from the top. After Doncic rushed another and missed, Aldridge trailed the break and caught it from the same spot, drilling it. In a pick and pop with Patty Mills, Aldridge knocked down his third triple in about two minutes, making it 21-19.
Rudy Gay got in on the three-point party, jabbing and drilling one from the corner.
Patty Mills came around a screen and pulled up for three, but the foul was ruled on the floor. After the ensuing inbound, he knocked down a three anyway. Then Aldridge hit his fourth triple of the quarter. Gay got to the line, then crammed a vicious dunk.
Doncic just kept cooking, and finished the first quarter with a game-high 19 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.
Both teams shot over 55% from the floor, and Dallas hit 5-10 from deep while San Antonio hit 7-10. The Mavs led 37-34 after the first.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
When, where: Friday, 7:30 p.m., San Antonio
All-time series record: Spurs lead 139-87
Last season: Mavericks won series 3-1
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Spurs won 119-109, March 10, 2020
Mavericks' last game: Won versus Pacers, 124-112
Spurs' last game: Lost versus Warriors, 121-99
Mavericks' last 10 games/streak: 6-4, won 1
Spurs' last 10 games/streak: 6-4, lost 1
Mavericks' injury/inactive report: Dwight Powell, OUT; Maxi Kleber, OUT; Dorian Finney-Smith, OUT; Josh Richardson, OUT
Spurs' injury/inactive report: Quinndary Weatherspoon: OUT(knee); Drew Eubanks: OUT (health/safety protocols); Derrick White: OUT (toe); Keita Bates-Diop: OUT (upper respiratory infection); Luka Samanic: OUT (illness)
San Antonio finished a road trip with a big win over the Blazers, but a tough loss to the Warriors. Both game came down to executing the pick and roll on both ends, as will tonight's contest against the Mavericks.
Tonight's top-tier talent at point guard is Luka Doncic, and his partner in that action is the 7'3" unicorn Kristaps Porzingis, who spaces the floor and can dunk over just about anyone.
Limiting that pair will be a challenge for San Antonio, but the Spurs could find some offense by going at the skinny Porzingis, forcing him to defend in space or attempt to hold his ground down low. They should try to put him and Doncic in as many pick and rolls as possible.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the game that Doncic was a pure basketball player who was built for this and loves the game, though he might have made a great team handball player too. He said that his skills were top notch, and he's a joy to watch.
As far as setting reasonable expectations for guarding him, Popovich said that the expectations are the same regardless of the opponent: just do the best you can.
Popovich also said that Drew Eubanks and assistant coach Becky Hammon are now back with the team after missing time due to the league's coronavirus protocols, though Eubanks won't play tonight.
He added that Quinndary Weatherspoon is close to returning, but didn't mention Derrick White who fractured a toe about three weeks ago. The initial timetable for his recovery was somewhere between four and six weeks.
Spurs unable to overcome horrible shooting night against Warriors
San Antonio got blown out by the Warriors on the worst shooting night of the season not just for them, but for the whole NBA.
The Spurs shot 4-33 from deep only after rookie Tre Jones knocked one down in the final seconds of garbage time. Steph Curry's Golden State team is still a tough matchup, and they were locked in on both ends. San Antonio was playing catch-up from the jump and didn't have nearly enough firepower on this night.
Coach Popovich lamented the poor shooting but said that the Spurs did a good job of creating the shots they wanted. He credited Golden State with jumping on them from the gate and said the defense would have needed to be perfect, and it wasn't.
Dejounte Murray had a team-high 22 points, and said that it felt like the team "got punched in the face and didn't know how to get back up."