The San Antonio Spurs led the Phoenix Suns for a total of 1.2 seconds on Tuesday, but they were the most important 1.2 seconds of the game.
Keldon Johnson stole the ball from Kevin Durant with less than seven seconds left and scored a layup at the death to give the Spurs a dramatic 115-114 victory at the Footprint Center in Arizona, after San Antonio had earlier trailed by 20 points in the third quarter.
Durant, who had just become the 12th player in NBA history to hit 27,000 points, missed a buzzer-beater as the game came to a frenetic conclusion.
Johnson ended the night with 27 points, while No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama added 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks as San Antonio recorded its first road win of the season.
“We needed to try anything at this point, down one with a couple of seconds left,” Wembanyama told reporters after his fourth game in the NBA. “It’s just: go and get the ball and do whatever you can.”
The Frenchman’s put-back dunk had cut the lead to one and put the Spurs within touching distance with 6.8 seconds left, setting up what proved to be a nightmare finish for Phoenix on Halloween.
However, Suns coach Frank Vogel said that he thought Durant had been fouled right before Johnson scored the game-winning points.
“They whack him on the arm, okay, before the ball gets ripped out of his hands, no call,” Vogel told reporters. “But in a situation like that, we try to get the ball in a quick inbounds to our 90% free throw shooter. And we did. But it didn’t work out.”
The Suns had held a commanding lead for virtually the whole contest and were 65-45 ahead at the start of the third quarter.
Durant tallied 26 points and seven assists as he passed the 12,000-point milestone, doing so in his 990th game. Only Wilt Chamberlain (780), Michael Jordan (852) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (965) have reached the mark in fewer games.
But the occasion was dampened by the Spurs’ dramatic, fourth-quarter comeback in which they outscored the Suns 33-19. It was a much-needed win following a crushing 40-point loss against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
“We made a gazillion mistakes, but it’s a game of mistakes,” San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “So does every team. We just kept playing, that’s the best thing about the group. I was really proud of them.”
The Spurs and the Suns, who are both 2-2 on the season, meet again in Phoenix on Thursday.