As the dean of NBA coaches, Gregg “I Want Some Nasty” Popovich has any number of motivational tactics with which to induce the desired results from his team.
He went with the guilt trip during the third quarter of Friday’s 114-92 win over the Rockets, questioning the Spurs’ focus during a timeout after their lead dipped to eight points.
“It wasn’t really anger, it was just more, ‘What are you doing?’” shooting guard Gary Neal said. “?‘You know what you’re supposed to do and you’re not doing it.’ There wasn’t any yelling or anything like that. The guys looked at each other and we picked it up.”
The Spurs did more than that, crushing the life out of the Rockets with a 15-0 run that extended their advantage to 23. It would swell as high as 33 in the fourth as the Spurs led from opening tip to final buzzer.
Neal scored six of his 12 points during the run, in which the Rockets went 0 for 5 from the floor with three turnovers. The surge also served as a line of demarcation against Houston’s James Harden, who had 29 points but did not score over the final 19:46.
“Third quarter, it was done on the defensive end,” said reserve Patty Mills, who returned from his one-game absence with 12 points. “We all locked down, surrounded Harden, made it tough for him.”
Injury report: Popovich said reserve swingman Stephen Jackson “might” participate in the Spurs’ upcoming four-game, six-day road trip, which begins tonight in Charlotte. Jackson has missed eight games with a broken small finger on his shooting hand.
Popovich said Kawhi Leonard will be with the team. Leonard has missed 10 games with quadriceps tendinitis. He was originally slated to miss 10-14 days, but is beginning his fourth week on the sideline.
Popovich said forward DeJuan Blair’s ankle injury, suffered late in the game, wasn’t severe.
Passing fancy: The Spurs had their passing game in high gear against the Rockets, tying a season high with 33 assists. The total will boost their league-leading average, which stood at 24.9 entering Friday’s game.
Eleven different Spurs had at least one. Tiago Splitter had a pair, but his errant behind-the-back pass in the second half didn’t come off like he hoped.
“I thought Boris (Diaw) was coming behind me,” he said, “and in the middle of the movement I said, ‘No, he’s not.’ I tried to pass to somebody else, but it was ugly.”
Sampson back: Kelvin Sampson, who is serving as Houston’s acting coach as Kevin McHale mourns the recent death of his daughter, returned Friday to the site of his career resurrection.
Sampson spent three months with the Spurs as an unpaid consultant in 2008 after he was fired from the head coaching job at Indiana for recruiting violations. Sampson had previously built a relationship with Popovich when he was the head coach at Oklahoma.
“When the Indiana deal happened, within 48 hours I get a call from Pop,” Sampson said.
“Next thing I know, I’m in San Antonio.”
I dream of a day when a chicken can cross the road without having their motives questioned.
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