Vassell, Johnson spoil Murray's return as Spurs top Hawks
By RAUL DOMINGUEZ
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell had 29 points each and the San Antonio Spurs rallied from a 24-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-118 on Sunday, spoiling Dejounte Murray’s homecoming.
Murray had 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds in his first game in San Antonio since being traded to Atlanta in the offseason.
“I’m not surprised. I’m not shocked,” Murray said. “(Devin) and Keldon put in a lot of work. Those are two young guys who really want to get better and be better. For me, trying to stay a competitor when we are playing and not more of a fan. But it’s still like a while to see them. And like they said, they are thankful for me showing them the way, always being there for them, whether I was there or where I am at today.”
The victory was the largest second-half comeback for San Antonio under Gregg Popovich and tied the second-largest comeback in his 27 seasons as head coach.
“A tale of two cities this week,” Popovich said. “The competitiveness and physicality was great. I think they scored 35 (in the second half). When you play that competitive and physically, good things usually happen.”
San Antonio reversed its fortunes after blowing double-digit leads in consecutive overtime losses at home, including a 29-point lead in the third quarter Friday before falling 126-120 to Memphis.
“There’s been times this year where we keep fighting and keep fighting and keep fighting,” Johnson said. “It kind of felt good to get down big and comeback and fight and get a win.”
Zach Collins added 19 points for the Spurs, who snapped a two-game skid.
Onyeka Okongwu had 17 points and Clint Capela had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks.
After trailing the Hawks by 24 points in the third quarter, Blake Wesley’s layup gave the Spurs a 115-114 lead with 3:47 remaining in the game.
The rookie point guard finished with six points, with five coming in the final four minutes.
Johnson sparked a 14-4 run with back-to-back 3-pointers that cut the Hawks’ lead to 95-93 with 3:38 remaining in third quarter.
San Antonio was 8 for 12 on 3-pointers in the third quarter to cut Atlanta’s lead to 103-101 entering the fourth. The Spurs held the Hawks to 20 points in the third while outscoring them by 19 in the quarter.
“Everybody played big today,” Vassell said. “We just kept the faith that we were going to come back and we did.”
San Antonio shot 58% from the field in the second half while outscoring Atlanta 65-35.
Murray received a warm reception after the team honored their former point guard with a video highlighting his six seasons with the Spurs.
“I felt like it was what it should be,” Murray said. “At the end of the day, showed nothing but love, both sides, from myself, the fans, the organization. And for me, I was just excited to be back here in the city, play basketball, try to get a win.”
While the trade occurred June 30, 2022, Murray said Sunday’s game was the first time he was able to truly close his chapter with the Spurs.
“There were a lot of emotions coming in, but more excited than emotions,” Murray said. “I am not a guy that really cries. I believe it was closure for sure. We played them at home not too long ago, but that is really different coming to San Antonio and actually playing. It was great to see a bunch of people I didn’t see back in Atlanta and also the fans. I am forever thankful and grateful. Just the fans, the majority, believed in me since I got here at 19 years old.”
Hawks: Atlanta had won three straight in San Antonio. The Hawks last loss in San Antonio was 117-111 on April 2, 2019.
Spurs: Rookie F Jeremy Sochan missed the game after aggravating a sore right knee in the first quarter of Friday’s game against Memphis. … F Keita Bates-Diop played 12 minutes but did not score after being listed as questionable with a sore left Achilles. … F Doug McDermott missed his second consecutive game with a bruised right hip.
Hawks: Host Detroit on Tuesday.
Spurs: At New Orleans on Tuesday.
This story has been corrected to show that Dejounte Murray was traded from the Spurs to the Hawks in 2022, not 2002.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated March 20, 2023