NBA: Spurs end four-game skid by edging Celtics

Field Level Media, Reuters

Posted at Jan 06 2022 01:08 PM

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) steals the ball away from San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) during the second half at TD Garden. Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters
Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) steals the ball away from San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) during the second half at TD Garden. Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Dejounte Murray had 22 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in his return from the NBA's health and safety protocol to help the San Antonio Spurs hold off the host Boston Celtics, 99-97, on Wednesday night.

Murray was cleared from COVID protocol before the game and returned after missing five games. Derrick White and Devin Vassell added 17 points apiece for the Spurs, who snapped their four-game losing streak. San Antonio held on after taking a 99-95 lead with 1:32 to play.

Boston's Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 30 points but missed a layup as time expired. Jayson Tatum added 19 points and eight rebounds in his return from the COVID protocol in Boston's 10th loss in 16 games.

Tatum played for the first time since the team's Christmas Day loss at Milwaukee. Brown was coming off a career-high 50-point, 11-rebound performance in Boston's 116-111 overtime victory vs. Orlando on Sunday.

San Antonio held a 58-56 advantage at the break after neither side led by more than six in the opening half. Leading 80-77 entering the fourth quarter, the Spurs clung to a narrow lead for most of the period.

Boston pulled to 90-89 on Marcus Smart's layup with 7:15 remaining, but Keldon Johnson nailed a 3-pointer and White sank a 14-foot jumper to make it 95-89 San Antonio with 4:33 left.

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Tatum and Dennis Schroder hit jumpers to trim the deficit to 95-93 with nearly four minutes to play. After Johnson's jumper and Brown's layup, Murray's 11-footer had the Spurs on top 99-95 with 1:32 remaining.

Schroder's layup with 1:05 to play made it a two-point game, and Brown poked the ball loose and forced a jump ball with 14.1 seconds on the clock. San Antonio eventually corralled the jump, and White was fouled.

After a timeout, Brown stole the inbound pass and drove the length of the court before missing a layup.

It was the first meeting between Celtics coach Ime Udoka and his former coach and mentor, Gregg Popovich.

Udoka played under Popovich in San Antonio from 2007 to 2011 and served as an assistant under Popovich from 2012 to 2019.

Wednesday was Popovich's 2,000th game. He is the first person in NBA history to coach 2,000 games for the same team.