“I loved seeing that last shot go down so that nobody would have overtime. It made two teams really, really happy the game was over,” said San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after rookie Kawhi Leonard knocked down a step-back 20-foot jumper to help the Spurs defeat the Houston Rockets 97-95 in the teams final preseason game.
"The last shot, Cory skipped it and I was open at the time,” said Leonard on the final possession, “I just stepped back and made the shot."
The two absent members of Saturday’s meeting, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, led the Spurs to victory. Duncan finished with 19 points and four rebounds while Parker finished with 15 points and five assists. Marcus Morris led Houston with 20 points, most of those in the second quarter.
In the first quarter, the Spurs came out firing as they shot 67% from the field and even held a 10-point lead at one time. Unknown camp invitee Gani Lawal got the crowd in an uproar with a block on Luis Scola. The Spurs put together a 7-0 run when Lawal was put into the game as he helped protect the rim with his lengthy frame. At the end of the first, the Spurs led 30-24.
Duncan led the second quarter as he was able to ease the offense into transition. Lawal also gave the fans something to cheer for as he finished on an and-one opportunity during a fast break. With 5:55 remaining in the second quarter, the Rockets quietly took the lead from the Spurs to take a 53-51 edge into halftime.
Unknown Frank Hassell, yes Frank Hassell, alongside James Anderson, Cory Joseph, and Tiago Splitter helped the Spurs create a 6-0 run that sent them with a 78-72 lead to end the third quarter.
“I watched them the whole time. The whole time that game went on I watched them,” said Popovich after the game on his two big men prospects trying to earn a permanent spot on the team.
The fourth quarter consisted of some of the younger players and Ford getting their minutes in; as rookie Joseph really impressed in scoring seven points and helping the team go ahead by 10 points. A timeout was called with 2:42 remaining and the Rockets came out firing as they put together a late 10-2 run. That’s when Leonard had the ball in his hands; he stepped back to the left and hit the game winning shot.
This concludes the shortened preseason for the Spurs. The team will host the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday December 26 to open the 66-game regular season.
Kawhi Leonard finished with four points and three rebounds in 22 minutes of action. After the game, Leonard said, “I’m just taking it day by day,” in reference to becoming more acclimated to the NBA.
Cory Joseph finished with seven points, one rebound, one assist, and one steal while shooting 50% from the field in 14 minutes of playing time. After the game, coach Popovich commented on Joseph’s comfort level, “He was a lot more comfortable than the first game in Houston,” said Popovich, “he did some good things. He was more aggressive and more comfortable on both ends of the court, so that was nice to see.”
Rockets point guard Jonny Flynn also commented on Joseph’s play, “He’s just taking it in right now.” Flynn also told me that he and Joseph share the same agent so they have an open communication line with each other.
The unknown big men
Unknown big men Gani Lawal finished with three points, one block, and five rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Frank Hassell finished with two points, one steal, and two rebounds in 15 minutes of game time.
I'm sitting here watching NBA TV and just saw that Mickael Pietrus was waived by the Suns I know he's not a big but he plays solid defense, as far as bigs Hilton Armstrong,Alexis Ajinca, or Marcus Cousins from the D-league just to name a few, the pickings are slim for bigs.
Hey, without Quinn, Mcdyess, Butler, Novak and 1 shooting guard or small forward; the 3 d-league players can be signed to compose the lineuip of 15. After all a shooting guard and small forward can't man the interior, fight for rebounds the spurs sorely needs. Hassell, Lawal and Zeller are young, raw and inexperience but they are big. Let them learn. Let them play!
SA can shuttle 2 guys with Austin. Only one cut necessary, I think. Zeller is likely the odd man, and Joseph and Hassel going down for "seasoning". We need bodies in the front court and all the SF and SG are too good to let go of. Green is better than some think and Neal, Kawhi and JA aren't going anywhere.
With ibg men drying out, it's good that they are used in the pre-season games. G. Lawal, F. Hassell and Zeller are given the necessary exposure to see if they fit. These are young, raw, inexperience players taken in to fill the blanks. The spurs should give up some shooting guards and small forwards and sign the d-league players. They are bigger and can help man the interior.
i have to say i think danny green needs to be one of the 2 players left to be cut. maybe green and either hassell or zeller. i dont expect that to happen but it should. danny green looked like crap last night and last season.
Hassell's lateral footwork wasn't that great! they did run the floor and showed enthusiasm but neither of them are rotation guys in my opinion! There are just athletes with adequate size, doesn't qualify them as "ballers"!
@Spursforever69 Lawal had several great offensive box outs that he didn't need to use because the shot went in, he had pretty decent speed and was at least at blair/bonner level when it comes to post defense (not saying much). In other words they are bodies to put on the court, which we need more than anything else. One of them (I'd put my money on Lawal) will be a rotation player while Hassell will prolly be a toro.
i loved the bigs play tonight. they showed great hustle diving for the ball and going up for rebounds etc.
i'd definitely prefer them over that red headed step child that we have on the team.
also i liked blair's aggressiveness in going for steals
I know this is the pre-season. I also know I'm not a GM or an NBA coach. But tonight's game should have calmed at least some worries, or knocked it down a level. Gani lawal and Frank hassell may not have had a big night on the stat sheet but they showed the competitiveness that a big needs. Hopefully they stay with the team, because there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.