clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Spurs fail to match the fast pace of the Kings

San Antonio’s struggling defense was made worse by a foot injury to Derrick White, and it showed.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs lost twice Monday night. The first loss came before the game, where news broke that Derrick White did not travel with the team on the first leg of the rodeo road trip due to soreness in his right heel. The second loss came at the hands of a young but exciting Sacramento team. The Spurs were incapable of keeping up with the fast pace of the Kings, and a poor shooting night from deep sealed the deal on this one.

White missing the first leg of the rodeo road trip means that he will likely be out until at least Thursday, which coincidentally, aligns with the NBA trade deadline. Shockingly, Twitter-verse conspiracy theorists took no time voicing their opinion. The only rational explanation for his absence was that White was on his way out of San Antonio and the Spurs were about to land <enter unrealistic trade target here>.

Well, turns out White’s injury appears to be real. Pop told the media before the game that White was suffering from plantar fasciitis and that the MRI looked “not great.” While “not great” speaks for itself, there is some good news regarding this injury. The first is that the issue is in his right foot. The plantar fascia tear White suffered earlier in the season was in his left foot. Secondly, plantar fasciitis is just inflammation of the bands of tissue whereas a tear is actual breaks in the fibers of the fascia (yes, I can google).

Coincidentally, I was scheduled to provide the game recap on the same night news broke of White’s injury. I suffered from plantar fasciitis last year, and it was a real pain in the b—ack of the foot. For the most part, playing with plantar fasciitis depends on your individual pain tolerance. I’m no world-class athlete to be sure, but my rec league basketball team did almost win a game last year, so there’s that.

In all seriousness, I dreaded waking up each morning, knowing every step I took was going to fight back. Similar to swallowing with a sore throat, you don’t realize how many steps are taken in a day until each step causes pain. It took several weeks of physical therapy before I started feeling any significant relief. In reality, I wasn’t able to achieve full relief until all my rec leagues were over and I was able to rest for a few months. I think there’s about a 100% chance White is out until after the all-star break, but with proper therapy, I would expect his pain to be low enough to where he will be able to get back on the court for the second half of the rodeo road trip. With that being said, I expect this injury to stay with him throughout the remainder of the season. It’s unfortunate, but true.

Game flow

Oh yeah, there was a game played today. Davis Bertans replaced Derrick White in the starting lineup, which is certainly a better option than Pau Gasol. Still, Bertans’ fit with the starting lineup leaves a bit to be desired. His role gets reduced to spacing the floor without much ball movement, punishing defenders brave enough to double LaMarcus Aldridge in the post.

When firing on all cylinders, Bertans with the foreign legion feels something close to performance art. Bertans with the starters is more like going to an art museum. You stand there looking, knowing that what you’re looking at is important, but it can be a bit boring.

The Spurs defense with White is iffy at best. Without White, they are a mess. The Sacramento Kings hit some tough shots in the first half, but 63 points is 63 points, and this type of result is becoming an all-too-familiar theme. Twice during the recent four-game home-stand the Spurs scored 70 points in the first half, but only went into the locker room with a small lead. And those were at home. On the road, playing lackluster defense will get you blown out of the building more often than not.

The Spurs appeared to be getting outplayed throughout the first half, but only found themselves down by four points heading into the second half due to a couple key factors. The first was that for the first time in a while, both stars for the Spurs put it together on the same night. Aldridge did what he’s been doing the past couple months, scoring 15 efficient points while grabbing six rebounds. In addition to Aldridge, the beautiful, smooth game of DeMar DeRozan was resurrected. He twisted, turned, and long 2’d his way into 15 first-half points on 7-10 shooting.

The second reason the Spurs were able to stay afloat in the first half was pure, unadulterated hustle. They grabbed nine offensive rebounds, leading to ten second chance points.

Oh yeah, then this happened.

What travel by DeRozan? I didn’t see anything. All I saw was what I absolutely love about Patty Mills, and why I cringe anytime somebody suggests trading him for some player who will never be able bring 10% of what Mills brings to the team on a nightly basis.

The game continued being a high-scoring affair in the second half. Whereas Jakob Poeltl was the first center off the bench in the first half, Pau Gasol was first off the bench in the second half. If anything can be said about Pop’s rotation at the center position, it’s that he’s been consistently inconsistent. The Spurs were down 76-78 when Gasol entered the game. Unfortunately for the Spurs, as Gasol’s minutes increased, so did the Kings’ lead. For what it’s worth, Gasol has the worst net rating of all Spurs’ rotational players. Poeltl has the third best. I’m not saying Gasol is the sole reason for our struggles - the Spurs’ inability to hit anything from deep killed many opportunities to go on a run - but he’s certainly not helping anything.

The Spurs looked like they were going to be down 14 heading into the final frame, but then this happened:

Even with the fantastic heads up play of Bertans and Mills, a 12 point deficit seemed daunting with the Spurs’ inability to string together defensive stops.

The Spurs tried to make it interesting early in the fourth, but a Poeltl fumble at the goal line with nobody near him kept the Spurs from getting within five points with eight minutes to go. From that point on, everything went the Kings’ way. The Spurs ended up losing 112-127, and are now 0-1 on the eight-game rodeo road trip. The Spurs fall to 32-23 on the season, dropping them to sixth in the Western Conference, just percentage points behind the Houston Rockets.

Notes on the game

  • Marco Belinelli is never shy, so you have to take the good with the bad. He’s going to shoot you into some games and out of others. Unfortunately, tonight was the latter. He and Mills combined for 3-15 from deep. Overall, the Spurs shot 9-32 from deep. That’s not going to cut it when the Kings are hitting shots from everywhere. Pop touched on this during his postgame interview. When asked about how the game went, he said if you’re not hitting your three point shots on the road, you must be strong on defense, especially in transition.
  • Speaking of transition defense. The Spurs got run out of the gym - quite literally. The Kings ended up scoring 35 fast break points. It’s nights like tonight that make me feel the Spurs are still too old and slow. Good thing I’m not the Spurs GM, as I would be guilty of making rash decisions, much to the detriment of the team.
  • I’m sure it’s happened more often than I think, but anytime I see a FT% near a FG% in the second half of a game, I become fixated on whether or not the team will actually end up with a higher FG% than FT%. It once again fell short tonight, as the Kings ended up shooting 56% from the field and 61% from the free throw line.
  • I hate losing, especially knowing what lies ahead, but losing on the road to this version of the Kings is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, I realize our porous defense probably made these guys look better than they are - Yogi Ferrell had a season high 19 points and Marvin Bagley III had a career high 24 points - but they have a fantastic young core. I hope these guys choose to stay together. If they do, they have a chance at being a force in the Western Conference in the not-so-distance future. I think we can all agree that’s something Kings’ fans deserve after so many years of struggles and dysfunction.