I kept thinking the Spurs were just about to turn the corner in this game. At a few different points they scrapped and clawed their way back into the lead and I would say to myself, “and now they’ll just take over and blow these guys away.”
It never happened.
You have to give the opposition a lot of credit here. They weathered every storm and answered every threat the Spurs posed. These are not the Sacramento Kings of the past. They are still young and raw, but they played with a purpose. The Spurs tried to match their intensity, but ended up withering at the end. The offense stalled out and it looked like the Kings had more gas in the tank.
I don’t know what to make of this performance. The Kings play at one of the most frantic paces in the NBA and the Spurs....don’t, which maybe means this was always going to be a a bad matchup. The problem is that the Spurs let them dictate the flow of the game throughout, and thus weren’t able to play to their strengths. The Spurs are good enough and experienced enough that they should be able to impose their will on teams like the Kings and they couldn’t. Instead, they looked discombobulated on both ends of the floor and probably only stayed in the game as long as they did because they were able to bait their young opponents into fouling them roughly every other time down the floor.
The Spurs could’ve won this game. They tied it up on an Aldridge fadeaway with about 5 min left in the 4th. Once again, I found myself saying, “here it is, now they’ll kick things into that final gear and take this thing away down the stretch.” The Spurs are a good team and I think they are going to win a decent amount of games this season. Unfortunately, it’s possible that they simply don’t have that last gear to shift into on nights like this. I’d love to be wrong about that.
- LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 rebounds. That’s a ton of rebounds! I found myself constantly impressed with his physicality in this game. These were not easy boards that he was grabbing in the open space to pad his stats. He battled all night with the Kings’ athletic bigs and he kept a lot of possessions alive for the Spurs. He’s never really had the reputation of being a big bruiser, but it’s interesting to watch him use his size down low.
- It was great to have Rudy Gay back in the lineup. He hit a bunch of timely shots and just, in general, seemed to provide a calming presence to a Spurs team that seemed to be sort of agitated at times. I really hope this heel injury he’s dealing with doesn’t continue to pop up as the season goes along because he’s continually becoming more integral to this team’s roadmap for success.
- Objectively speaking, the Kings are a real delight to watch this year. They have so much talent all over the place and it felt like everyone on their team is a threat to score constantly. De’Aaron fox looks as explosive as anyone one in the league and, if this game was any indication, Bogdan Bogdanovic is maybe the best player in the league. The Spurs certainly had no answer for him. I loved what I saw from their core of front court guys, Cauley-Stein, Bejelica, and Bagley, and even Buddy Heild was out there making a bunch of plays. Dave Joerger has these kids whipped into shape and I think they are going to drive a lot of teams nuts this season.
- There was a stretch in the 3rd quarter that was maybe one of the worst stretches of basketball I’ve watched in a long time. Both teams had a ton of turnovers and bad shots and it just looked like a pickup game that had gotten out of hand. The pace was fast, but disjointed and it felt like both teams were desperate to land some sort of knockout punch that would put the game out of reach. The Spurs kept taking a ton of threes long after it had become painfully obvious that the 3pt gods had decided that those weren’t going to fall for them in this game and it just killed any chance of the offense finding a good rhythm heading into the final quarter.
- Okay, lets end on a good note. How about this pretty little finish from DeMar in transition? There’s an argument to be made that cool reverse layups are actually more fun to watch than dunks. I’d lose that argument, sure, but it’s still one I could make.