The Silver and Black, fresh off a heartbreaking loss Sunday night to the Portland Trail Blazers, arrived in Sacramento in search of a redemption victory against the Kings. The Spurs have been on a bit of a see-saw lately, and with Kawhi Leonard unavailable for at least this week, they needed their young guys to step up tonight and help get them back on track.
After struggling for most of the game, including being down by 13 at one point in the second half, the Spurs erupted on a 12-1 run to snatch the lead back in the final minutes and steal the win in surprising fashion.
Here are some takeaways from the game:
- The team clearly misses Kawhi’s ability to jump passing lanes for steals, bury shots from everywhere, and singlehandedly change the momentum of a game seemingly at will — assuming he’s healthy and acclimated. Even though the Spurs somehow pulled out the win, there were some heroics required that probably wouldn’t have been necessary had Leonard played.
- Pop has an incredible sense for when to stay patient with his guys, and for when to go nuclear on them. During the first half, the Spurs turned the ball over in a few different stupid ways. Instead of losing his cool, Pop waited it out and trusted them to find a way to get back into the game. Once they started to string plays together in the second half, he upped his intensity. At one point, when DeJounte Murray failed to whip a clean pass over to a WIDE open and RED-hot Davis Bertans in the corner, Pop blew a fuse and let his young point guard know how angry he was. Tonight was yet another example of how brilliant he is with how he paces himself and his team during games.
- After not playing a lot during the beginning of the season, Davis Bertans showed how valuable he can be when he has it going. The young forward notched a career-high 28 points off the bench (including massive back-to-back threes during that 12-1 run). Whether Pop was initially challenging Bertans to get better by benching him early on in the season, or if it was just because he was experimenting with other players/lineups - we will probably never know. But one thing is for sure - Bertans’ skill-set (an athletic forward who can stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting) is perfectly tailored for the way the NBA game is being played. And I expect him to keep on getting valuable playing time after Monday’s performance.
- The youngsters are resilient. After Tony Parker left around the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter due to a sprained ankle, the Spurs found a way to rally despite being down seven. Patty Mills and Kyle Anderson did a splendid job at running the offense, while guys like Bertans and Bryn Forbes hit high-pressure shots down the stretch. This win was a testament to not only the mental fortitude of the vets (Patty, LA) on the floor during those final moments, but the young guns (Bertans, Forbes, and Kyle Anderson) as well.
- After not being able to drop a game-winner in Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge proved he can come through in clutch situations. With the Spurs up three with 1:48 left in the game, Aldridge drew a crucial “And-1” on a circus layup that somehow found the net. LA recorded his second straight 30+ ppg night in as many days, finishing an impressive 13-20 from the field for 31 points. He also recorded 12 boards on the night. Aldridge himself said after Sunday’s loss that he needed to do a better job stepping up in the clutch - and he did that against the Kings.
- Because of how the game had gone through three-and-a-half quarters, this was a surprising victory for the Spurs and they should feel fortunate they were able to come alive at the end. Sure, some of their struggles tonight were probably due to fatigue from the previous night’s game — and the last game of yet another FIGASENI — but outside of LA, Bertans, Mills (and Forbes in the final minutes), scoring seemed like a challenge for everyone. For most of the game, the Kings seemed to have the Spurs’ number, up until San Antonio’s fourth quarter run. Somehow, the Spurs mustered up enough strength and will-power to fight back and seize the victory.