Vassell, Johnson help Spurs hold on to beat Jazz, 126-122

Dec 26, 2022, 6:33 AM | Updated: 9:07 pm

San Antonio Spurs' Stanley Johnson (34) tangles with Utah Jazz's Rudy Gay during the second half of...

San Antonio Spurs' Stanley Johnson (34) tangles with Utah Jazz's Rudy Gay during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

(AP Photo/Darren Abate)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Devin Vassell had 24 points, Keldon Johnson added 21 points and the San Antonio Spurs fended off the Utah Jazz in the final minutes for a 126-122 victory Monday night.

“We just stayed together. We persevered and came out on top,” Johnson said. “I feel like they are a good team and good teams make runs. We withstood that run and won the game.”

The Spurs led 121-110 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining. The Jazz scored seven points in 33 seconds, but they could not complete the rally.

Jakob Poeltl added 16 points for San Antonio.

Lauri Markkanen had 32 points and Jordan Clarkson added 25 points for Utah, which had won two straight.

Clarkson’s 3-pointer pulled Utah within 123-120 with 30.1 seconds remaining but Tre Jones tossed in a floater 23 seconds later as San Antonio snapped a two-game skid.

“I think we came into this year knowing we were going to be in a lot of close games,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “We weren’t going to be a team necessarily that was built to blow people out, so we needed to be clutch in those situations.”

Jones, who finished with 11 points, made the Spurs’ final two field goal attempts.

The game started 40 minutes later than scheduled due to what the Spurs termed “a potential security threat, which has impacted fans entering the AT&T Center.”

“We were just about to run out of the tunnel to come out for warmups, but they told us to go back to the locker room,” Markkanen said. “It’s a weird thing. That’s the first time I’ve experienced that, but I think guys did a great job of just staying locked in and controlling what we can control.”

The delay or a weekend holiday break for both teams likely contributed to a sluggish start that resulted in a combined 19 points in the opening six minutes.


Hardy spent 11 seasons with San Antonio, working his way up from an intern to a lead assistant under coach Gregg Popovich.

Hardy spent one season as an assistant at Boston before Utah hired him as the ninth coach in franchise history.

Despite all his success, Hardy said he still feels like a 22-year-old intern at times when he is around Popovich and Milwaukee head coach and former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer.


Players and staff for both teams, stadium employees and a few thousand fans were already inside when a potential security threat was announced. No one was evacuated, but no more fans were allowed to enter for about half an hour.

Fans were allowed in again after law enforcement determined there was no threat, leading to a 40-minute delay.


Jazz: Markkanen has scored at least 30 points in eight games this season. … Kelly Olynyk missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle. … F Rudy Gay was honored by the Spurs prior to tip-off with a video highlighting his four seasons with the team.

Spurs: San Antonio did not have any injuries to report for the first time in more than a month. The Spurs starting lineup played together for just the third time in the last 12 games and for only the 14th time in 33 games this season. … San Antonio will complete its seventh of 14 back-to-back games this season on Tuesday in Oklahoma City. The Spurs are 2-5 in the opening game and 1-5 in the closing contest.


Jazz: At Golden State on Wednesday.

Spurs: At Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

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Vassell, Johnson help Spurs hold on to beat Jazz, 126-122