After playing one of the most thrilling games of the season against the Rockets, the Spurs had one of the ugliest performances in recent memory. Fortunately, San Antonio’s 105-104 overtime win over the Kings will count the same as any other in the standings, no matter how excruciatingly difficult it was to watch at times.
The game was a mess from the start. Both teams struggled with spacing, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the starters on both sides attack one-on-one, with mixed results. There was little ball movement and when the offenses created some good looks, the shooters couldn’t convert them consistently. The benches did a little better, but poor decision-making in their attack prevented San Antonio from taking advantage of a Kings team that seemed unable to hurt them on the other end. The Spurs closed the half strong and managed to get a double-digit lead thanks to some hot outside shooting from Marco Belinelli and, surprisingly, DeMar DeRozan, but nothing about their performance suggested they were sharp or focused enough to cruise to a win.
Surely enough, the starters came out without a sense of urgency in the third quarter and allowed the Kings to close the gap. Sacramento simply played with more energy and started to hit some of the shots that were not going down for them earlier in the game and that was enough to get them control of the game, as the Spurs seemed unable to respond. The bench, as it typically does, tried to help them stay in it, but the Kings always seemed to have an answer after timely timeouts and stayed in front until late in the fourth quarter. It seemed like the Spurs were going to drop a winnable game, just as they have several times this season.
A game this ugly couldn’t possible have a normal ending, though. After leading by nine points with under two minutes to go, the Kings collapsed spectacularly. They first sent Dejounte Murray to the line, then had back-to-back turnovers that resulted in easy buckets for San Antonio. A few video replays and coachs’ challenges later, the game was close, but after a LaMarcus Aldridge putback and a couple of Harrison Barnes free throws Sacramento led by three with 14 seconds to go. The weirdness would continue, as Gregg Popovich drew a beautiful play and none other than Spurs’ fans favorite scapegoat, Marco Belinelli, hit a three to send the game to overtime.
Nothing made sense at this point. The Spurs had three consecutive turnovers to start the extra period and wouldn’t attempt a field goal until there were 2:22 left in the game, but somehow the Kings were equally inept on offense, so they couldn’t create separation. They got a lead after a Buddy Hield bucket but then a jumper from Murray put San Antonio back in front with 29 seconds to go. Sacramento had four opportunities to win it in the final possession, but somehow botched them all to bring this rock fight of a game to its merciful conclusion.
It’s impossible to figure out these Spurs. They are capable of playing inspired ball for a game, then look completely discombobulated the next one. They were fortunate to run into an opponent that somehow had an even worse night than they did, which is the only reason they escaped with a win.
Let’s just be happy they are moving up in the standings, and let’s not talk about this performance ever again.
- LaMarcus Aldridge returned after missing two games and looked healthy, finishing the game with 19 points and 13 rebounds on 35 minutes of action. His return allowed Jakob Poeltl to go back to the bench, where he anchored the second unit’s defense expertly. As long as neither is injured, the Spurs will have a good center rotation.
- DeMar DeRozan had a quiet scoring night and had trouble guarding the bigger Harrison Barnes when they were matched up. He was also clearly upset with the officials. DeRozan still had 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists but it wasn’t a great game for him.
- It seems that Derrick White will start games but Dejounte Murray will finish them. For the second game in a row Pop went with Murray late, which is understandable, since White was having a very rough night. It paid off, as Murray made some plays on defense that made the comeback possible and hit that jumper late in overtime.
- Lonniemania couldn’t continue to gain momentum, as Walker struggled in his second game as a rotation player. It was still surprising to see Pop pull him from the game shortly after subbing him in midway through the fourth quarter, but it’s hard to argue with the results, since Mills and Belinelli contributed to the comeback. Hopefully Lonnie will get more minutes next game.
- For the second time in a row the Spurs closed with a small lineup featuring two point guards, two wings and a center. It makes sense, since the power forwards are not playing well. Lyles missed all of his shots and Rudy Gay, after a strong start, made some silly mistakes on offense and looked lost on defense. The Spurs definitely need more consistency from Gay.
- The coach’s challenge is such a frustrating recourse. The Spurs won their challenge on a phantom foul called on Trevor Ariza in the final minute of regulation, but their reward was a jump ball that they lost. That’s obviously better than free throws for the Kings, but the sequence was still infuriating to watch in real time.
Next game: Vs. Cavaliers on Thursday
The Spurs will get a break after a hectic stretch in their schedule and will face the reeling Cavs at home. It’s a perfect opportunity to get a three-game winning streak going before a couple of road games.