Keldon Johnson hits career-high 36, Spurs top Nets, end 5-game skid

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San Antonio Spurs’ Tre Jones (33) loses the ball as he collides with Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Keldon Johnson had a career-high 36 points and 11 rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs snapped a five-game skid with a 106-98 win over the injury slowed Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.

“A ton of energy, a ton of confidence, that’s who Keldon is,” San Antonio rookie forward Jeremy Sochan said. “He is great. We all trust him.”

Sochan added 16 points in a physical outing that included a dustup with Brooklyn forward Markieff Morris.


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The Nets lost their third straight. They have dropped every game since Kevin Durant suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee. Kyrie Irving was a late scratch due to a sore right calf.

Johnson was 11 for 26 from the field, including two key baskets in the fourth quarter. He hit a 3-pointer following a missed 3 by Seth Curry, giving the Spurs an 87-82 lead. One possession after Nic Claxton blocked his dunk attempt, Johnson threw down a one-handed dunk for an 89-82 lead.

“It felt great. I can’t lie,” Johnson said of his late 3. “They called timeout right after that. I was hyped. My coaches and teammates put the ball in my hands, and I just make something happen.”

Ben Simmons had a triple-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for Brooklyn in the opener of a five-game trip. T.J. Warren added 19 points and Claxton had 15 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and four assists.

A flare-up midway through the second quarter between Morris and Sochan momentarily sparked the Nets. Sochan held three fingers up near Morris’ face after draining a 3-pointer that gave San Antonio a 39-34 lead with 5:20 remaining in the half. The Nets’ veteran verbally let the rookie know that wasn’t appreciated and then delivered a shoulder into Sochan’s chest on the ensuing possession. The play resulted in an offensive and technical foul on Morris, as well as a Flagrant 1 foul on Sochan, who pulled Morris to the court on the play.

“It’s a different era, man,” Morris said. “You seen the play before that he makes a 3 and he’s pointing in my face. ‘You made a shot. What is that about?’ So, I mean, I set a hard screen and then he grabbed me. He actually did like a wrestling move on me. I said that’s impressive, I told him. It was impressive because he used a lot of force and he kind of flipped me. He got me.”

Brooklyn went on a 15-3 run following the dustup, erasing yet another sluggish start.

That momentum stopped in the third quarter as the Nets were outscored 25-17.

The Nets were scoreless for four minutes after Simmons made the game’s opening basket on a driving hook shot 23 seconds in. Simmons opened the game shooting 2 for 5 after a series of spin moves and drives ended with most of his shots rolling off the rim.

“With Kevin and Ky out, we have a lot of different lineups that we’re not 100% familiar with,” Nets wing Joe Harris said.

San Antonio led Brooklyn 27-15 after first quarter. It was the fewest points scored by a Spurs opponent in the first quarter this season. The previous low was 23 points by Minnesota on Oct. 30. The Nets were slowed by seven turnovers.


Nets: Irving was not initially listed on the injury report, but was ruled out prior to the game. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said he does not believe the injury is serious and is hopeful Irving can play Thursday in Phoenix. … Brooklyn’s season-low output in the first quarter is 14 points, on Oct. 19 against New Orleans, and Nov. 23 against Toronto. Its season low for any quarter is 13 points in the third against Miami on Jan. 8.

Spurs: San Antonio has not won consecutive games since winning three straight Dec. 8-12.


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