Although San Antonio seemed like a shoo-in to secure a spot in the newly instated play-in tournament just a week ago, they now find themselves in the middle of a season-high five-game losing steak and on the brink of missing out on the playoffs. And with the second-toughest remaining schedule in the NBA, the Spurs have little room for error if they hope to avoid consecutive trips to the lottery for the first time in franchise history.
Thankfully for the Silver and Black, there’s a genuine possibility of ending their tumble in the Western Conference standings as they draw a banged-up Sacramento squad on Friday night. The Kings come into this matchup winners of five of their last six outings, but without De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, and Tyrese Haliburton, head coach Gregg Popovich and company will have three fewer starters to worry about in this small market clash.
San Antonio Spurs (31-34) @ Sacramento Kings (29-37)
May 7, 2021 | 9:00 PM CST
Watch: KENS | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Trey Lyles (Out — Ankle), Derrick White (Out — Ankle)
Kings Injuries: Robert Woodard II (Out — Back), De’Aaron Fox (Out — COVID Protocols), Harrison Barnes (Day-to-Day — Groin), Chimezie Metu (Day-to-Day — Back), Tyrese Haliburton (Out — Knee)
What to Watch For
- Blazers, Bucks, Nets, Knicks, Suns (x2) is a brutal final stretch for the Silver and Black, and this meeting is by far San Antonio’s most winnable tilt for the rest of the season. Another loss to the Kings would erase most of their two-and-a-half-game cushion over Sacramento for the final play-in spot out West, so the results in this one will have significant consequences for both organizations. As mentioned earlier, this Pacific Division foe will be without All-Star snub De’Aaon Fox, Rookie of the Year candidate Tyrese Haliburton, and the steadying veteran scoring presence of Harrison Barnes. Despite a shorthanded roster, the Kings have won four straight, relying on a forgiving slate, the return of Marvin Bagley III, and the stellar two-way contributions of Delon Wright. While depth isn’t Sacramento’s strong suit, Buddy Hield and Terence Davis are liable to heat up in a hurry, and San Antonio can’t afford either sharpshooter the sort of space they gave the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
- San Antonio had the second-best road record in the NBA when the sun went down on April 28. They have slipped to tenth in that category after falling to the Heat, Celtics, and Jazz (x2) over the last ten days. Although the Spurs have previously performed like championship contenders away from the AT&T Center, lately, that hasn’t been the case. Their recent road résumé includes blowing a 32-point lead in Boston while giving up a career-high 60 points to Jayson Tatum and two not-so-close contests with the first-place Jazz sans their All-Star backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. An untimely season-ending injury to Derrick White explains some of their struggles on both ends of the court. But San Antonio went a respectable 13-11 without the fourth-year combo guard before his ankle sprain, so they should theoretically be able to handle the undermanned Kings.
- The Silver and Black still lost to the Jazz by 32 points on Wednesday evening, but it was at least a little consolation to witness head coach Gregg Popovich tinkering with the lineups early and often. Luka Samanic paced San Antonio with 15 points, Tre Jones dropped a career-high 11 points, and Drew Eubanks nearly secured his fourth double-double of the season. Devin Vassell played 30 minutes for the first time in his brief Spurs tenure, and even Keita Bates-Diop and Gorgui Dieng logged more than 13 minutes apiece. While it was a classic empty-the-bench tactic, Pop shouldn’t hesitate to hand any of the young core or third-stringers extended run when the rotation regulars aren’t putting forth their best effort. Will any of the previously mentioned players supplant Patty Mills, Rudy Gay, or any of the starters when the Spurs take on the Kings? Probably not, yet there’s a decent chance they won’t stay glued to the bench if Sacramento builds an uncomfortably large first-half lead. Playoff basketball is all about making necessary adjustments. And there might not be any postseason for San Antonio if they don’t experiment with different lineups down the home stretch of their schedule.
For the Kings fans’ perspective, visit Sactown Royalty.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.