In a game marked by fits and spurts by both teams that led to 25 lead changes, the Kings gutted out a road victory and their first ever season series sweep of the Spurs. Sacramento won a balanced effort behind Buddy Hield’s 26 points. The Spurs, led by LaMarcus Aldridge (27 points and 18 rebounds) and Rudy Gay (18 points and 9 rebounds), were overwhelmed by heady bench play and late game execution by the visitors. San Antonio sits again in seventh place, two games back of the sixth place Clippers in an ever-changing playoff picture. Interestingly enough, the Kings went 6-1 against the Spurs and Thunder this season.
Random Late-Season Observations
- The Kings were without the services of Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles, which would appear to have impaired their frontcourt rotation. However, Willie Cauley-Stein and Nemanja Bjelica, scored 11 of Sacramento’s first 14 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge matched the Kings’ total himself - mixing a deft touch on his jumpers and rim-running for layups and tips. Defensively, Davis Bertans whiffed on a Bjelica shot fake, yet still recovered well for a solid contest without fouling. This type of effort may come in handy during the playoffs. Kings announcer Grant Napear commented Aldridge ‘keeps on scoring every time he touches the ball’ and shortly after, it was Aldridge 18 - Kings 18. Despite Aldridge’s Herculean efforts, Sacramento still stayed within 28-30 after the quarter via second-chance points from five offensive rebounds, perfect free throw shooting, Buddy Hield’s silky touch, and poor Spurs shooting by anyone not named Aldridge.
- Harrison Barnes went on a personal 5-0 run to give the Kings their first lead. Rudy Gay, Bryn Forbes, and Patty Mills hit on successive shots to help San Antonio retake the lead. Kings analyst Doug Christie said with admiration “Patty is a smooth player.” Notorious Spur irritant Corey Brewer broke the zone defense with a twisting layup and added a jump-ball at the other end. Barnes later took advantage of the shorter Forbes on the post, which prompted a quick Pop timeout to discuss help defense. Derrick White’s second deflection of the game forced a Kings turnover. After the Kings went up six, DeMar DeRozan led a 15-3 run as scorer and facilitator to put the San Antonio back in the lead. Gay delivered a vicious facial on an unsuspecting Bjelica. However, Sacramento applied more on-ball pressure and converted on Spurs turnovers as part of a 9-2 run to go up 58-57 at the break after a back-and-forth last six minutes.
- White and Hield traded baskets to start a heated and energized third stanza. After several lead changes, Pop was tossed for vehemently arguing a loose ball that very clearly went off of Barnes and was awarded to Sacramento. Possession was awarded to the Spurs anyway after the technicals and Ettore Messina and Becky Hammon both moved one chair over. On four consecutive possessions, the teams traded increasingly lovely three-point shots. The frenetic pace seemed to affect both teams ability to convert for the next several minutes. Then, Bogdan Bogdanovic paired two difficult three pointers to help Sacramento regain the lead 84-82. King backup guard Yogi Ferrell connected on a pair of shots to give his team a 89-87 margin heading into the fourth quarter. The two teams combined for 21 lead changes up to this point.
- Behind Kings center Kosta Koufos’ 11th rebound and Bogdanovic and Ferrell, Sacramento went on a 9-0 run with solid halfcourt execution. Down ten midway through, San Antonio combined three deflections and finally a steal to start a 15-2 run on the back of Aldridge’s strength inside and timely shooting from DeRozan and Mills. A back tap by Gay to Forbes preserved a late San Antonio possession. A league review of a loose ball/possession late in the shot clock netted a Spurs possession but a DeRozan miss. The Spurs were not able to hit on their own end while not able to stop the Kings’ late game execution.
- Did you know the Sacramento Kings had never swept a season series from the Spurs up until now? Neither did I.
- Napear noted “this is one of the most annoying arenas in the league . . . every time they get the ball they should play a game of ‘Name that tune!’” He added dryly during Belinelli’s free throws: “this is the only time that they don’t play music. During their free throws.”
- More Fun Data with the Spurs’ Playoff Streak: I turn 44 in the next three weeks - therefore, the Spurs’ playoff streak has transpired exactly HALF OF MY LIFESPAN!
- MCL (Marco’s Crazy Leaners!) Tracker: 3. The first one came just outside of the key while the second one was off a DeRozan feed on the left wing. The third one came on a one-legged floater that gave the Spurs the lead back in the third quarter.
- My Patty Mills Story: Last year, my wife and I were in San Antonio for two Spurs homegames with the Final Four sandwiched in between. Our plan was to meet family members after a Spurs win at the Pearl for dinner. San Antonio came through with a resounding win over Houston to push their record to 45-32. Patty’s output (14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) sorely undersold his impact - having played 37 minutes and harassing James Harden and Eric Gordon on the perimeter. We traveled from the AT&T Center to the Pearl. After the meal, I came bounding out of the restaurant only to find myself face-to-face with Patty for a good 2-3 seconds. It finally occurred to me in my stupor that he and his girlfriend were trying to get into the door I had just exited. I backstepped quickly to open the door and Mills stared at the Ginobili retribution block shirt I wore and flashed his trademark smile before replying “thank you, sir!” I embarrassingly performed the same exercise to Mills’ parents, who kindly also expressed their gratitude that I did not close the door right in their faces. And that’s the most interaction I’ve ever had with a Spur.
Playoff Watch: The Dallas Mavericks withstood a storm of late misses by the Oklahoma City Thunder (44-33) to win 106-103. The Los Angeles Clippers (46-31) host the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at 9:00 PM CDT.
San Antonio completes its homestand Tuesday at 7:30 CDT when they take on the improving Atlanta Hawks and Trae Young before the final SEGABABA of the year with Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in Denver Wednesday night at 8:00 PM CDT.