It wasn't a blowout win over a superteam, but this will count as a W all the same. The Spurs, fresh off a demolition of the Golden State Warriors, struggled in the first half but were able to grind out a tough 102-94 victory over the Sacramento Kings, who were playing in their home opener. Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 30 points, 5 steals, and 5 assists, while DeMarcus Cousins poured in 37 points and 16 rebounds for the Kings.
Unlike Tuesday night at Oracle when the Spurs could seemingly do no wrong, the Silver and Black stumbled out the gate in Sacramento, trailing the entire opening quarter. Kawhi Leonard scored 12 points in the frame, including the team's first 9, but no other Spurs starter managed to score a single point besides LaMarcus Aldridge, who split a pair of free throws. The Kings starters had no such difficulty finding the bottom of the net, feeding off a raucous crowd pumped for the debut of the brand new Golden 1 Center. Sacramento's hustle and sharp defensive rotations forced the good guys into highly contested looks at the end of the shot clock. Once again the bench brought the Juice for the Spurs, but not in the form of a Jonathon Simmons flurry. Newcomer Dewayne Dedmon scored 8 points in the quarter, cleaning up the glass and showing soft touch around the rim. Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili weren't nearly as dialed in as their new teammate as the pair clanked open jumpers, contributing to a dismal 1-6 team effort from three-point land. A lack of rhythm from the starting unit coupled with an inspired performance by the Kings saw the Spurs in a 29-27 hole at the end of the first.
The Spurs went up 31-29, their first lead of the game, on a David Lee layup just one minute into the second quarter, but this advantage was short-lived. From that point it was all Kings as the home team relentlessly crashed the paint, resulting in 20 trips to the free throw line in the first half. DeMarcus Cousins absolutely abused Pau Gasol down low and on the permieter, while Ben McLemore and Rudy Gay drew a whistle just about every time they touched the ball. Tony Parker's jumpshot was noticeably flat, and Kawhi Leonard picked up his third foul with 3:52 left in the half. Dewayne Dedmon continued to provide a spark for the Silver and Black, defending the rim superbly to help stop the bleeding. Despite struggling on both ends and trailing by as many as 11, the Silver and Black only found themselves down 57-53 heading into the break.
The Kings picked up the second half where they left off, continuing to play frenetic, disciplined basketball and threatening to push their lead back to double-digits. Then Kawhi Leonard happened. The Klaw decided he had seen enough, attacking the Kings interior defense while once again showing the world why he's the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Kawhi stole the ball right out of Ben McLemore's hands on back-to-back plays, drawing fouls in transition both times and quieting the home crowd. The Sacramento defense finally showed signs of weakness, while their offense that was firing on all cylinders in the first half sputtered and looked out of sync. A 19-5 run to end the third quarter gave the Spurs a 76-71 lead heading into the fourth.
San Antonio carried over their momentum from the third quarter, continuing their run and taking a 10-point lead on a Kawhi and-1 with 11 minutes left. The Kings refused to go quietly into the night as Boogie Cousins imposed his will and sparked a 12-2 run, tying the game up at 83 just when the Spurs threatened to win going away. LaMarcus Aldridge struggled to get anything going most of the night, but timely buckets and free throws from LMA allowed the Silver and Black to regain the lead. The Spurs refused to allow the Kings offense to regain its first-half rhythm, suffocating every player outside of DeMarcus Cousins. Kawhi Leonard hit dagger after clutch dagger in the final minutes to seal the deal, and the Spurs escaped California with a hard fought victory.