Spurs rout Rockets 124-105 with 26 from Vassell

San Antonio Spurs guard Malaki Branham, left, dribbles past Houston Rockets guard Daishen Nix during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) (Eric Christian Smith, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – Devin Vassell had 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs rolled to a 124-105 rout of the Houston Rockets on Monday night to snap a two-game skid.

The Spurs won this matchup of the two worst teams in the Western Conference despite missing leading scorer Keldon Johnson, who averages more than 21 points a game. Johnson was out with a bruised lower back.

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Coach Gregg Popovich said the Spurs made up for Johnson's absence with strong play from a variety of players.

“We had like six or seven guys play well on both ends of the court,” he said. “We showed a lot more aggression the second half and that's what it takes to win an NBA game.”

San Antonio used a big third quarter to pull away and led by 16 entering the fourth before scoring the first five points of the final period to push the lead to 97-76.

The Spurs led by 20 later in the fourth before using an 8-2 run to make it 120-94 with about four minutes to go. Vassell and Malaki Branham both made a 3 in that stretch, and Vassell grabbed a steal on a bad pass by Jalen Green.

Alperen Sengun had 22 points and Kevin Porter Jr. added 15 for the Rockets, who dropped their third straight game.

“We got down on ourselves,” coach Stephen Silas said. “We were missing shots and as a result we let go of the rope a little bit tonight and that was disappointing.”

The Spurs led by 1 midway through the third quarter before using an 11-2 run to make it 82-72 about three minutes later. Keita Bates-Diop scored the first four points in that stretch and Doug McDermott had a 3-pointer to help the Spurs build the lead.

“Pop (was) getting to us,” Vassell said. “But we needed it. It brought the juice back out of us. We picked it up a lot on the defensive end, guys in transition, and started being more aggressive.”

Monday’s win comes after the Spurs took the first meeting this season 118-109 over Houston.

The Rockets had been playing well before this skid, notching wins over the Bucks and Suns as this young team looked to be making progress.

“I’m not worried like the sky is falling at all,” Silas said. “We’ve just got to do better.”


Spurs: Josh Richardson was out for a second straight game for personal reasons. … The Spurs made 50 percent of their 3-pointers. ... McDermott made four 3s and scored 16 off the bench. ... Tre Jones had 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Rockets: Daishen Nix had a career-high nine assists. … Rookie Tari Eason scored 11. ... Green had 13. ... Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. had nine points and eight rebounds.


The Rockets made just 5 of 24 3-point attempts after shooting just 3 of 29 from long range in a loss to Portland Saturday night.

“We’ve been here before where we just haven’t made shots and it’s affected a lot,” Silas said. “We've got to continue to work and continue to trust that when we create good shots for our teammates, those shots eventually go in.”


Spurs: Visit New Orleans on Thursday night.

Rockets: Host Orlando on Wednesday night as they continue a seven-game homestand.


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