Hornets top Spurs, leaving Popovich win short of NBA record

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Terry Rozier scored 31 points and the Charlotte Hornets beat San Antonio 123-117 on Saturday night, leaving Spurs coach Gregg Popovich a victory short of tying the NBA record.

San Antonio has lost four straight since beating Washington on Feb. 25 to move Popovich within one of Don Nelson’s record of 1,335 regular-season victories.

LaMelo Ball added 24 points for Charlotte, P.J. Washington and Montrezl Harrell each had 15 and Mason Plumlee had 13 rebounds. The Hornets made their final 17 free throws.

“Any win, we will take,” Rozier said. “We don’t care if it’s by half a point, that’s the main goal we want to achieve at the end of the night. So, whatever it takes.”

Keldon Johnson led San Antonio with 33 points, but was limited to five in the second half. Dejounte Murray had 25 points and 10 assists, and Devin Vassell added 14 points.

“They played hard enough to win,” Popovich said of his team, which lost leads in the waning seconds of the third and fourth periods. “They competed hard enough to win. The end of quarters are still a learning situation for us.”

Ball gave Charlotte a 117-113 lead with two free throws with 55.5 seconds left. Murray’s layup drew San Antonio to 119-117 before Martin hit four foul shots on two trips to the line in the final 33.6.

“I thought we finished with one rebound at least,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “Cody had a huge rebound at the end to seal this game, but we had a couple of slips there. We have to get bodies on bodies and it could’ve cost us again, but we are fortunate to get the win.”

With Charlotte ahead 115-111, Plumlee contended with Jakob Poeltl for a rebound. The two locked up on the ball, and Plumlee slung Poeltl to the floor in an effort to control the ball. Officials ruled it a jump ball and no foul on Plumlee.

“They definitely kicked up the intensity and made it harder for us to make shots that we usually hit,” Johnson said. “That is why we keep grinding and we will now get ready and be ready to go on Monday.”

MURRAY'S JOURNEY

Popovich acknowledged the long path guard Dejounte Murray has taken from No. 1 pick in 2016 after one year at the University of Washington to leading scorer, including a torn ACL in 2019.

“He didn’t spend a lot of time in college like a lot of these guys these days and he had to catch up on a lot,” Popovich said. “He got injured a bit and missed quite a bit of time, but through it all, he really matured to the point where this year he took the biggest leap forward as far as taking over the team.”

Murray finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds Saturday.

TIP-INS:

San Antonio: Johnson was perfect in the first period, making all seven of his shots — two of them 3-pointers — and his lone free throws. He had 17 of the Spurs’ 30 points.

Charlotte: Gordon Hayward missed his fourth consecutive game with a left ankle sprain.

UP NEXT:

Spurs: Host Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

Hornets: Host Brooklyn on Tuesday night.

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This story has been corrected to show that the first name of the Hornets coach is James, not John, Borrego, and that Dejounte Murray had 10 assists, not 10 rebounds.

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