Lowly Rockets, Spurs relieved for key returns from injury
The season had long since come undone for the San Antonio Spurs, but the extended losing streak that began before their annual rodeo road trip represented the bottom of the barrel.
But in a span of two games, the Spurs enjoyed a run of fortune. First, San Antonio snapped a season-worst, 16-game losing skid with a 102-94 victory over the Utah Jazz, a win that came in the finale of their nine-game roadie. The Spurs followed up with a 110-99 win over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, welcoming back guards Devin Vassell and Tre Jones in the process.
The Spurs, who will open a back-to-back against the Houston Rockets at home on Saturday, were without Vassell for two months after he was sidelined by left knee surgery. Jones missed the previous five games with left foot soreness and, with both back in the rotation, the Spurs appeared rejuvenated.
"I think we all know who Devin is. He's elite," said Spurs rookie forward Jeremy Sochan, who produced his first career double-double by pairing 22 points with 13 rebounds against the Pacers. "Having him (and) Tre back is important for us and I think it's going to open things up.
"It's exciting to have them back because they are great players."
While both Vassell and Jones were on minutes restrictions, they found ways to contribute to the win. Vassell posted 18 points in over 22 minutes while Jones chipped in five assists and four rebounds in 21 minutes. The Spurs missed Jones' verve in addition to the scoring provided by Vassell, whose 19.4 points per game is second on the team to Keldon Johnson (21.8).
The Spurs still aren't quite whole -- Johnson sat out against Indiana with a foot injury and is doubtful for Saturday -- and are just ahead of the Rockets at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. However, San Antonio already owns a pair of victories over the Rockets, and, given their first taste of consecutive wins since mid-December, it's easy to understand why their confidence is flowing.
"Winning in Utah and (over the Pacers) is really important, and I think we all believe that we can win the next two games and keep it going," Sochan said.
The Rockets currently have the longest losing skid in the NBA, with their 113-99 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday marking their 11th consecutive defeat. Houston snapped a 13-game skid in late January and has dropped 31 of its last 35 games since winning on Dec. 13.
Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. returned from a 20-game injury absence against the Grizzlies but the results, both collectively and individually, weren't favorable. Porter missed 8 of 11 shots and tallied only 11 points, five rebounds and two assists in the loss.
He acknowledged that he isn't quite a full strength, but the Rockets being in a nosedive made the decision to return to action.
"It's a relief to be back despite how the game went," said Porter, who continues to deal with a nagging toe injury. "I bleed basketball so hooping ain't the problem. I've just got to be healthy.
"Last couple of games this season there's definitely going to be some tolerable pain going on. But I want to play the best I can get it. Can't get (the toe) 100 percent, so I'm going to play."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 3, 2023