Notebook

San Antonio Express-News - - BUSINESS -

Two nights af­ter watch­ing LeBron James take over in the fourth quar­ter to lift the Lak­ers to a come­back win over the Spurs in L.A., De­Mar DeRozan turned the ta­bles.

The All-Star guard scored 11 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth quar­ter, ral­ly­ing the Spurs to a 133120 vic­tory over the Lak­ers on Fri­day night at the AT&T Cen­ter in a game they trailed most of the way.

It was DeRozan’s fourth 30point » Pau Ga­sol a step closer to re­turn from bro­ken foot. ef­fort against the Lak­ers in as many tries this sea­son. For good mea­sure, he added nine as­sists, eight re­bounds and two blocks.

Fresh off scorch­ing the Spurs for 41 points in L.A., in­clud­ing 20 in the fi­nal 12 min­utes, James fin­ished with 35 points and 11 as­sists Fri­day.

He scored only four in the fourth quar­ter, though, and missed 5 of 6 shots.

“We’ve been through a lot of ad­ver­sity,” DeRozan said. “For us not to hang our heads, even af­ter be­ing down by so much, re­ally says a lot.”

Cen­ter Jakob Poeltl, who came over from Toronto with DeRozan in the Kawhi Leonard deal, was equally huge in the fourth quar­ter. He scored 10 of his 14 points off the bench, and helped the pre­vi­ously de­fense­less Spurs de­fense hold the Lak­ers to 21 points in the fi­nal

frame.

Poeltl’s sig­na­ture play Fri­day came when Davis Ber­tans missed a long jumper, the ball bounc­ing high off the rim.

Poeltl came fly­ing in to save first the play, then the day.

“It’s the high­est I’ve ever seen him jump,” DeRozan said.

Poeltl’s soar­ing put­back dunk pro­vided the high­light-reel mo­ment of a fre­netic fin­ish for the Spurs, who turned a dou­ble-digit deficit in the fi­nal frame into a 13-point vic­tory.

The come-from-be­hind win in the opener of a sixgame home­s­tand for the Spurs, who trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, could prove cru­cial to the rest of the sea­son.

With it, the Spurs im­proved to 12-14, and avoided fall­ing four games be­low .500 for the first time since Novem­ber 1996.

“We did a good job of stay­ing tena­cious, show­ing a lot of grit,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It was mostly

a great night for the tenac­ity.”

The Spurs were two nights re­moved from a 121-113 loss to the Lak­ers in Los An­ge­les, made pos­si­ble by a huge fourth quar­ter from James.

James picked up where he left off Fri­day and nearly willed the Lak­ers (15-10) past the Spurs again.

The Spurs lim­ited James to 24 points, eight as­sists and seven re­bounds. Of course, that was just in the first half.

The four-time MVP used ev­ery weapon at his dis­posal — in­clud­ing three early 3point­ers — to push Los An­ge­les to a dou­ble-digit lead be­fore in­ter­mis­sion.

Com­ing in, the Spurs were 1-13 this sea­son when fac­ing a deficit of 10 points or more. The lone vic­tory came Oct. 27 in the AT&T Cen­ter.

On Fri­day, the Spurs trailed by 12 points one possession into the fourth quar­ter, and ap­peared on their way to a third con­sec­u­tive de­feat.

This time, there were un­likely play­ers bring­ing the Spurs back.

DeRozan, as usual, was

bril­liant down the stretch. But Poeltl and Ber­tans sup­plied their own fourth-quar­ter oomph.

Ber­tans had all 13 of his points in the fi­nal frame, his big­gest bucket com­ing on a four-point play that gave the Spurs a 119-112 lead. It was their largest of the night to that point.

Poeltl, mean­while, did all the dirty work down the stretch, fin­ish­ing pick and rolls, de­fend­ing the rim and set­ting screens.

“He’s a quick learner,” Popovich said. “He ex­e­cuted his role in an ex­cel­lent man­ner. He got into some spots where he could get the ball. They let him go think­ing he wouldn’t do much.”

Poeltl in­stead pun­ished the Lak­ers in money time.

Mo­ments af­ter his vi­cious put­back dunk, Poeltl com­pleted a 3-point play to tie the game for the first time since the first half.

Poeltl played so well down the stretch Fri­day that Popovich kept LaMar­cus Aldridge, the Spurs’ All-Star start­ing cen­ter, on the bench the en­tire fourth quar­ter.

Poeltl said he had no time to won­der when he would be taken out.

“We were so in the zone, I wasn’t think­ing about subs or any­thing,” said Poeltl, whose team outscored L.A. 44-21 in the fourth. “I could barely tell you how much time was on the clock. It was just flow­ing.”

The July trade that brought Poeltl to San Antonio will right­fully al­ways go down as the Leonard-DeRozan swap. They were the Al­lS­tar head­lin­ers.

But the Spurs think they ac­quired a de­cent young side piece in Poeltl, a 23year-old for­mer No. 9 over­all pick.

With vet­eran Pau Ga­sol miss­ing 15 con­sec­u­tive games with a stress frac­ture in his left foot, Poeltl at last has his op­por­tu­nity to prove it.

He was on a lake­side va­ca­tion in his na­tive Aus­tria last sum­mer when he got the call he had been dealt from the Rap­tors to Spurs.

Like DeRozan, Poeltl at first had mis­giv­ings about leav­ing Toronto.

“It was a strange feel­ing,” he said. “Ev­ery­body al­ways talks about it be­ing a busi­ness, and you’ve got to be ready for any­thing in the NBA. When it ac­tu­ally hap­pened,

it was a tough one to swal­low.”

Poeltl has since come to see the bright side of his new life in San Antonio.

In the fourth quar­ter Fri­day, with the game in the bal­ance, Poeltl put his hap­pi­ness on full dis­play.

“Once I got to think­ing it through, I kept see­ing more and more pos­i­tives about the trade,” Poeltl said. “We’re get­ting to the point I’m re­ally en­joy­ing it.”

The Spurs are en­joy­ing it, too.

Fri­day marked the fourth dou­ble-fig­ure scor­ing night in seven games for a dirty­work role player Popovich says the Spurs “are not go­ing to look to score a whole bunch.”

Of all the play­ers in the Spurs’ locker room, DeRozan is least sur­prised by what Poeltl is be­com­ing.

The pair played two sea­sons to­gether in Toronto be­fore team­ing up with the Spurs.

“I’ve seen how hard he’s worked and how much time he’s put in,” DeRozan said. “Tonight was not a sur­prise to me. I’ve seen what he can do.”

Poeltl’s dunk might have come out of nowhere Fri­day. As far as DeRozan is con­cerned, Poeltl did not.

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