The regular season finally resumed for the Spurs, and they got off on the right foot with an assertive win over a foe directly in their path to the postseason: the Sacramento Kings. The offense was on fire almost all night, and although the defense wasn’t great and they had one of their signature lapses after building a large lead early, they fought back, asserted their dominance late, and actually closed a game strong for the 129-120 win: a good sign that this team is improving.
DeMar DeRozan led the way with 27 points on 10-13 shooting, 10 assists and 5 rebounds, and Derrick White was phenomenal all game with 26 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic torched the Spurs with 63 combined points, but it wasn’t enough as the Good Guys held on for the win.
- Some things about these Bubble games will take some getting used to, such as the artificial fan noise that showed no knowledge between the home vs. away team. (At some points the artificial “fans” were even late reacting to made baskets. The cheering starting seconds after the basket when the ball is already heading back up the court was awkward.) One thing that hasn’t changed is despite announcing from the AT&T Center, Bill Land and Sean Elliott don’t missed a beat.
- The Spurs put out the same starting line-up as they did in the scrimmages, and similar to the three warm-up games, White was the aggressive one early with 10 first quarter points. After a back and fourth first few minutes where both teams continuously torched each other on the break, the Spurs went on a 19-0 run to get the lead as high as 16 before they settled for 43-30 at the end of the quarter. Ball movement was crisp no matter who was in the game, and Jakob Poeltl protected the paint well in half court sets.
- Patty Mills once again did not play, but rather sat on the bench with a notebook. Although Pop recently joked that he was getting old and was sore, he has not been on the injury report at any point. It makes one start to wonder if he is willfully ceding his playing time in the bubble to the young guys, or if he will eventually play.
- It’s like beating a dead horse at this point, but the old saying still remains: no lead is ever safe with this squad. The Kings got hot to start the second quarter and eventually retook the lead, largely on the back of Fox’s 20 first-half points and the Kings getting back to pushing the ball in transition, leaving the Spurs down 65-64 at the half. (Of note, Poeltl rested all but a few minutes of the second, which played a role in the offense opening up for Sacramento as well.) Getting out to quick starts only to blow leads has been a signature of this team this season, and learning to maintain or even continue to expand them must be a priority going forward if they hope to get back to being a winning team again.
- No amount of face mask will keep Gregg Popovich from yelling at the refs when he feels like it. If it gets in the way, he just removes it.
- The third quarter went back and fourth as both teams traded the lead, but most notably the Spurs lost Marco Belinelli to a sprained ankle, which combined with some foul trouble for Dejounte Murray led to Quinndary Weatherspoon’s first meaningful NBA minutes of his career (and his first four points). While Belinelli and Bryn Forbes (who is reportedly out indefinitely with a quad injury) have drawn the most ire from Spurs fans this season, and their absence means even more minutes for the youngsters, missing both of them is not ideal in the grand scheme of things. That’s a lot of the Spurs’ shooting, so assuming he’s healthy, it will be interesting to see if this brings Mills back into the rotation.
- The Spurs defense is an entirely different animal when Poeltl is in. His presence gives the perimeter defenders the confidence to stay with their men, he deters players who drive and try to challenge him at the rim, and he’s a force on the boards. When he wasn’t in, the Kings were either waltzing to the rim or the defense was scrambling around the perimeter, giving up wide open look after wide open look. At least so far, he’s earning that paycheck and minutes he’ll be seeking in free agency.
- DeRozan became the first Spurs player to record 3,000 points, 800 rebounds and 800 assists in his first two seasons with the franchise. He also hit a timely three in the fourth quarter after rebounding his own missed free throw! — Oh wait, it was just a toe-on-the-line two because he never takes threes. Regardless, he seems to be finding a nice balance between when to defer and when to take over. In this case, it was the fourth quarter when the youngsters were starting to look tired that he asserted himself and helped lead them to victory.
- White took five charges in this one, the fifth a huge defensive stop late in the fourth quarter that cost him a piece of a tooth. But the MVP of this game is a tough cookie and kept playing.
- Another big contributing factor to this win: Spurs killer Buddy Hield was held to just 6 points on 2-13 shooting, 1-8 from three. No Buddy Buckets today.
For the Kings fans’ perspective, visit Sactown Royalty.
The Spurs will return to the court on Sunday to take on the Memphis Grizzlies in another must-win game. Tip-off will be at 3:00 PM CT on FSSW.