San Antonio Spurs vs. Sacramento KingsAT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
February 1, 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
The San Antonio Spurs try to stop a three-game slide tonight by taking on the worst team in the Western Conference on a second night of a back-to-back when the Sacramento Kings roll into to town. The Spurs have struggled on both ends of the floor with Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter missing from the starting lineup, but in the grand scheme of things, three losses in a row coming to Miami, Houston and Chicago is not all that alarming.
Yes, the Spurs have lost five of their last seven games, but all the losses came to playoff teams. And no one should push the panic button just yet. No other team in the league could survive this many significant mid-season injuries without running into a skid of losses. It is more impressive that it wasn't until the Spurs lost a fourth member of the rotation that they really started to struggle.
The Kings could be just the medicine San Antonio needs while so many of their players are ailing. At the very least, Sacramento can provide a Band-Aid for a team trying to get off their first losing streak of the season. The Kings have lost six in a row after nearly pulling out last night's game at Dallas. The Kings defense is one of the worst in the league, ranking 28th in points per game, which sets up perfectly for a Spurs squad that can use it can get putting the ball in the bucket right now. San Antonio has averaged 88 points in the last two games and struggled offensively for long stretches of the 113-101 loss to Miami.
The Spurs have already bested the Kings once this year, winning a 112-104 home game in come-from-behind fashion on December 29th. The Spurs outscored Sacramento 31-17 in the fourth quarter after trailing by six points and were led by the Big-3, as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan all had big games. Boris Diaw scored 14 in the game and looks to be a factor tonight if the Spurs as Pop has called his number pretty heavily since Manu's hamstring forced him into street clothes.
DeMarcus Cousins had a monster game that night, with 29 points and 14 rebounds, while Isiah Thomas had 27 and Rudy Gay posted 24 in the loss. And the Kings are a threat to score every night, as they 101.9 points a game. They are in the middle of the league in rebounding, but lag in assists. That is one of the reasons the Kings struggle down the stretch against good teams. Sacramento has a lot of individual basketball talent, especially on offense end, but the team lacks chemistry on both ends. It hurts defensively with a lack of rotations and it hurts offensively down the stretch when the game becomes slower and condensed. In those situations, the Kings turn into a one-on-one offense and that is a hard thing to be consistent with, especially if you're not a team full of outside shooters.
Cousins has grown into one of the better young players in the league, but he has been suffering through an ankle injury, and his status for Saturday's game is unknown. That has forced Jason Thompson into the starting lineup for the Kings and the drop-off in production has been significant, placing all of the scoring pressure on Gay and Thomas. In Sacramento's loss to Memphis on Wednesday, no Kings player besides Gay and Thomas scored more than eight points while they combined for 47 of the team's 89 points. Even with San Antonio's defensive struggles while missing its top-three defensive players, expect the Spurs to defend well enough to be able to shut down only two options if Cousins isn't healthy enough to suit up.
Matchup to watch: Without Green and Kawhi, matching up with Rudy Gay will be San Antonio's biggest challenge. The Kings defense should allow San Antonio to score enough points to put pressure on Gay and Thomas to have monster games.
Kings perspective can be found at Sactown Royalty.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 7.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 10 1/2.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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