With under 90 seconds to play, Spurs were up 5. Like they have done so often this season in late game scenarios they went to their closer; DeMar DeRozan. On the left wing DDR caught the ball looking to size up his opponent, a double came and just like DeMar has said all year long, if a team doubled he would trust his teammates. This is what he did. DeMar gave the ball up to Lonnie Walker IV who had Delon Wright, a great defender in his own right on him. Lonnie went one on one and drove to the rim, as he approached he saw Wright was on his hip and the Kings shot blocker Richaun Holmes was closing in to protect the rim. Lonnie leaned to his right, shot a floater off the glass to score his third clutch bucket of the game to pull out a must needed win for his ball club.
The Spurs started the night 2.5 games ahead of their opponents and two games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans, who had lost earlier in the night in a nail biter against the 76ers. The Spurs were coming into tonight’s game having lost a season high 5 straight games, while their opponents the Sacramento Kings were having the opposite run of form as they had won 4 on the bounce. These games were becoming more and more important for the Spurs to win especially because of the pressure the teams below were providing. Therefore Pop decided to make an un-forced lineup change. This saw Lonnie Walker IV enter the starting 5 and move rookie Devin Vassell to the bench. The Lineup of DJ, LW, DDR, KJ & Jak hadn’t started a game together since the win against the T’Wolves on February the 3rd. This starting 5 were 1-3 coming into this contest.
They didn’t look like a 1-3 lineup to begin as they started on a 7-0 run to show a sense of desperation in a must win game. Each Spur starter had one of the first 5 fields goals as they were sharing the scoring load early. DeMar took over this quarter for San Antonio, as he had 6 straight at one point; he had 12 for the term. The highlight play of this period was from former Spur, Chimezie Metu, who had a big ally-oop dunk. The Kings hit a couple of threes which kept themselves close, the 3pt culprit mostly was Terrance Davis who also had 8 consecutive points in the term. These were 8 of his 24 total points of the bench for the Kings. After a great start the Spurs struggled to make shots late as they ended the quarter cold, but had a 25-21 lead.
Rudy Gay was one of the only players who hit a three for San Antonio tonight and he started off the second doing just that. The second quarter provided a faster pace game but this led to some sloppy turnovers and poor shot making from both teams. The Kings were able to get the better of this exchange as they ended up just one point behind after a transition 3. After a timeout, the coaches were able to slow their teams down and make sure they got better shots and this showed as both the Kings and the Spurs got into an offensive flow. For the Silver & Black it was Dejounte Murray who found a rhythm as he drained a few of his patterned midrange pull up J’s. Eventually a Buddy Hield three put Sacramento in front for the first time tonight but DeMar DeRozan countered as he had 6 points in the last 90 seconds for San Antonio to guide them into a 3-point lead.
The second half started in a very Spurs esque way, as they just can’t do anything easy this season. Less than two minutes into the 3rd they gave up a very obvious clear path foul, which allowed the Kings two points at the line and the ball to boot. The game was tied at 60 apiece when Keldon Johnson put his stamp on the game with back to back buckets. Midway through the term a deep Buddy Hield three gave his team a one-point lead. They extended this to 5 before another Hield three ushered the Kings their largest margin of the game. Vassell and DJ responded with a 5-0 run but this wasn’t enough to bring the Spurs back in front as the home team led 81-78 at the end of three.
Jakob Poeltl had a big AND-1 to tie the game up early 4th but Kyle Guy who had provided a punch for the Kings late third hit a three to open the fourth for his team. The Spurs started to turn it on though, as a 7-0 run gave them the lead. They came back out after a Luke Walton timeout to score 4 more to extend their run to 11 as they led by 8. Dejounte then hit another midrange jumper to give SA a double digit lead but this was when it started to fall apart just like it had so many times this season. A Holmes And-1 cut it to 8 before a Delon Wright 3 and a Harkless dunk from a live ball turnover completed an 8-0, 88 second run to make it a one possession game. A few minutes later with the game still hanging in the balance Buddy Hield hit one of the most ridiculous banked 3’s you’ll ever see to have the Kings within one.
This was the same point so often in the second half of the season we had seen the Spurs collapse and give games away. BUT. Lonnie Walker IV was not going to let that happen this time. Mr Walker had 4 quick points to give the Spurs a 107-102 margin with 90 seconds to play. The Spurs got a crucial defensive stop before that play I mentioned at the beginning transpired, where DeMar got doubled and Lonnie decided to ice the game himself. The 7-point lead looked good, but even better when Buddy Hield missed a three, Spurs got the rebound and the free throw game began. Lonnie Walker ended up with 8 points in the clutch and the Spurs won 113-104 to take the series tiebreaker and strengthen their position in the final play-in spot.
3pt point troubles…. Again. The Spurs once again for the 1000th game this season had trouble knocking down the three ball. Its actually shocking that the Spurs won this game considering they shot 4/22 (18%) from three while the Kings shot over 40% from beyond the arc. This couldn’t have happened many times in history that a team under 20 percent from three beat a team over 40 percent but the Spurs are the Spurs and they do weird things. But in all seriousness they have to shoot better than that this next week considering the opponents they play, I would nearly guarantee the Spurs won’t win another game this season if they shoot that badly.
Lack of bench scoring. The first half of the season the Spurs were applauded by the national and local media for their bench play. Patty was on fire, Rudy hit a fair share of his shots and Jakob was on the bench at that point. But the second half schedule has been tough on the second unit and tonight was no different. They ended up with 23 points but that looked a lot better than it should. Rudy had 14 but didn’t shoot that well and the other 3 bench guys had a combined 9 points. If the Spurs want to get through the play-in games they have to get better bench production as well as the improvement in 3pt scoring.
Lonnie Walker comes up BIG late. 8 points in the last few minutes showed Lonnie’s scoring ability. He is by far our best prue scorer out of all the young guys and I’m glad he got to show it in moments like this. He scored his 8 points from off the ball action, ISO’s and the free throw line. Moments like these should give Walker the world of confidence to know he belongs in these type of situations. And it looks as if he will finish the season the same way he started, in the starting 5. So more of this please SkyWalker
Tonight’s SVP (Spurs Valuable Player) goes to DeMar DeRozan. What hasn’t been said this year about DDR. He is our scorer. He is our playmaker. He is our offense. When he is not out of the floor our guys look lost on how to score the ball, but when he is out there he makes everyone better and gives guys easy looks. He truly is the most underrated guy in the league. 25 points on 50% shooting, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 block tonight in the win. The Spurs are surely going to be counting on him to carry them to the play-in games and beyond. If this is the last 6+ games of DDR in San Antonio, let’s appreciate and cherish every moment.
Next game: Vs the Blazers on Saturday
The Spurs play the second half of their back to back in Portland where they take on Damian Lillard and co. Luckily for San Antonio the Blazers as well played tonight in a close game against the Lakers where they escaped with a win. Both teams are needing a win to secure their playoff/play-in hopes, so that should make it a barnburner of a contest. I’ll see you all tomorrow for the recap of that game, enjoy your Saturday!