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
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.