Johnson’s 36 point career-high guides Spurs past Nets

Spurs snap 5-game losing streak, winning 106-98

Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor

San Antonio – Keldon Johnson put up a career-high 36 points along with 11 rebounds, snapping a 5-game losing streak and defeating the Brooklyn Nets last Tuesday night.

“This is why I play the game of basketball,” Johnson said. “I feel like I had it going tonight, and this is definitely a big moment and something that I’ll definitely remember.”

What happened?

After blowing a 14-point lead, Johnson and the Spurs withheld a second-half Brooklyn comeback, winning 106-98. Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were sidelined with injuries, yet the young San Antonio squad sees the win as equal.

“I don’t care,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said when asked about the two Nets players. “Everybody has people out now and then; I don’t care.” 

The Nets defeated the Spurs by 36 points on Jan. 2, though without Durant or Irving, the Brooklyn offense struggled to get going.

The Spurs held the Nets to 15 first-quarter points, a season-low for a Spurs opponent. San Antonio also held Brooklyn to just a 28.6 percent shooting percentage in the quarter.

Ben Simmons made a pair of free throws at the 3:52 mark in the second quarter, giving Brooklyn its first lead in the game.

Jeremy Sochan was charged with a flagrant one foul for shoving Markieff Morris in the second quarter, creating a scuffle between the two teams. Sochan seemed unbothered by the altercation as he led all scorers with 16 points at the break.

“I think the game got a little heated,” Sochan said. “There was an altercation between us, but it is what it is; we are all playing physical.” 

As a young rookie, Sochan has already become a problem for defenders. The former ninth overall pick has picked fights with NBA veterans and All-Stars, showing no tranquility for any opponent.

“He’s got some nasty in him,” Popovich said.

Johnson’s second-half offensive explosion kept the Spurs out front, ending their losing streak and extending the Nets’ losing streak to now three games.

Coach’s thoughts

“I thought, as usual, our grunt was good,” Popovich said. “We didn’t shoot that well for a good portion of the game, and they kept playing like they always do, so I’m thrilled for them.”

What’s next?

The Spurs will face the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, Jan. 20, with former Spurs legend Kawhi Leonard expected to play. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. at the AT&T Center.