San Antonio Spurs @ Sacramento KingsSleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
March 21, 9:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
The San Antonio Spurs overcame a sloppy first half against the Lakers on Wednesday night to improve to 51-16 on the season. The win makes it 11 in a row for the Spurs and keeps San Antonio two games up on Oklahoma City for the top-spot in the Western Conference entering tonight's game against a talented, but struggling, Sacramento team. The Spurs will stay out west to take on the Kings, a team that is 22-44 on the season and just 14-19 at home. San Antonio is 25-8 on the road this season, by far the best record in the league.
The Spurs didn't have as easy a time with the Lakers in the most-recent victory. After beating Los Angeles by 32 points a few days previous, San Antonio needed a strong second-half to pull away from a Lakers team primed for a top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The bench was far less productive on Wednesday, but Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard paced the starters in scoring and Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter did a better job on the boards as the game went on, allowing San Antonio to outscore the Lakers by 11 points in the fourth quarter.
The Kings are an interesting team because the roster is full of talent, but it hasn't translated to wins. Sacramento has been inconsistent all season, but is coming off a 117-111 overtime-victory over the Washington Wizards. For the last few weeks, however, Sacramento has really struggled to score the basketball on a consistent basis. The Kings are 14th in the league in points per game, averaging 101.4 a night, but it had only reached the 100 point mark four times in the previous nine games before the overtime victory at home against Washington.
The future looks bright for the Kings, but that future still needs a few pieces before this team can really compete in the Western Conference. DeMarcus Cousins is steadily becoming one of the best bigs in the entire NBA. In 58 games this season, Cousins is averaging a team-high 22.3 points and 11.8 rebounds a game. He also leads the Kings in block shots and steals and has an impressive 25.6 PER. Cousins is a throwback of sorts in a league that has been infiltrated by finesse big men. Cousins does most of his damage around the basket and a lot of it has to do with his toughness around the rim.
Rudy Gay was a midseason pickup for the Kings and he has provided scoring from the wing. He and Isaiah Thomas both average over 20 points a game for the Kings, but the two have had a hard time figuring out which one is supposed to take the lead late in games. For as good as Cousins is, he isn't a guy that can have an offense revolve around him down the stretch. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of Thomas and Gay and the two are still figuring out their roles together on this team.
After the Cousins, Thomas and Gay trio, Sacramento boasts no other players that score in double figures. Those three each scored 24 points in the win over Washington, meaning that trio combined for 72 of the King's 117 points. Guys like Reggie Evans and Ben McLemore find themselves in the starting lineup, but each has their struggles offensively. McLemore is capable of scoring, but he is prone to draughts on the floor. He went 5-for-17 from the floor and 1-for-7 from behind the arc in Sacramento's last game.
The main problem for the Kings, besides defense, is a lack of scoring punch off of the bench. Sacramento played four guys off of the bench against Washington and those players combined for 27 points in 80 combined minutes. That puts too much pressure on the starters to play more minutes and build leads that the bench can sustain. On the flip side, what makes San Antonio so good, even when the Spurs aren't at full-strength, is a bench that can erase deficits or build leads. That will likely be the difference in this game.
Matchup to watch: The Kings are one of the worst defensive teams in the league so the Spurs should have little issue scoring the ball. The one concern San Antonio must have entering this game is the work of DeMarcus Cousins on the offensive glass. If the Spurs can execute on offense, limit turnovers and keep the Kings off of the offensive glass, San Antonio should pull away from the Kings late in the game.
Kings perspective can be found at Sactown Royalty.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 15.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 8.
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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