CHARLOTTE, N.C. – San Antonio star DeMar DeRozan was the defensive focus for the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night.
That left DeRozan's teammates to step up and handle the scoring load.
Dejounte Murray had 26 points and 12 rebounds, leading the Spurs to a 122-110 victory over the short-handed Hornets.
Derrick White scored 12 of his season-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, helping San Antonio to its fifth win in six games. The Spurs also improved to 5-0 this season against Eastern Conference teams.
“They had a lot of attention on him from jump — making it crowded for him,” White said of DeRozan. “But he’s a great passer and we used their aggressiveness against them.”
DeRozan attempted just eight shots and finished with eight points, but he dished out nine assists.
“They made it tough for him," Murray said. "He is going to have nights where they make it tough on him, but he knows that we've got his back.”
Terry Rozier scored 33 points for the Hornets, who played without leading scorer Gordon Hayward because of a sore back. P.J. Washington, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin sat out due to health and safety protocols, and Devonte Graham did not play in the second half because of discomfort in his knee.
Malik Monk scored 23 points for Charlotte, while rookie LaMelo Ball had another strong outing with 17 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
Hornets coach James Borrego was essentially down to seven NBA-ready players after Graham left, one of them being G League call-up Jalen McDaniels.
That meant Rozier had to play 41 minutes and Ball 39.
“It was challenging just trying to figure out how to keep these guys fresh and competitive and keep the rotations moving forward,” Borrego said. “But our guys gave us everything they could tonight, and we just ran out of gas there in the fourth quarter."
The Hornets were hoping to get back to .500 on the season. They started with a sense of urgency.
Rozier, who scored 41 points in Friday’s win against the Timberwolves, had 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting as the Hornets built a 33-17 lead. But the Spurs began to heat up in the second quarter, going 20 of 26 from the field and scoring 47 points to take a 64-59 halftime lead.
The game was tied heading into the fourth quarter, but White scored 10 points in the first seven minutes to help the Spurs to a 108-99 lead. Charlotte pulled within six down the stretch before White converted a driving layup across the lane with 47.8 seconds left to help close it out.
Rozier is averaging 36 points over the last three games while shooting 59% from the field.
“Sometimes when you’re in the zone the hoop feels like it’s an ocean,” Rozier said.
Keldon Johnson, the 29th pick in the 2019 draft, had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs.
White called him “country strong.”
“He’s a hell of a rebounder," White said. "In traffic it just seems like he comes down with it. It brings a lot of energy for himself and his teammates.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said DeRozan has been a big part of Johnson's development to this point.
“He’s not only having a great season playing, he’s doing a great job as a mentor with Keldon being a young, energetic guy with a lot to learn," Popovich said. "DeMar enjoys him, but also wants the best team he could possibly have and bringing Keldon along quickly is part of that.”
Spurs: Had 31 assists. ... Shot 29.4% from 3-point range.
Hornets: Hayward had been listed as probable before his back tightened up. He is day to day.
Spurs: At Detroit on Tuesday and at Cleveland on Wednesday, capping a stretch of three road games in four days.
Hornets: Host the Bulls on Wednesday night.
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