The San Antonio Spurs are still hunting for the first dub of their five-game Western Conference road trip after coming up short down the stretch of a nail-biter against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night. Another day means another chance to get back on the right track, but the Sacramento Kings are on a roll, having won four in a row.
As has been the case for most of the season, head coach Gregg Popovich and company enter this outing shorthanded, and a decimated depth chart has put them in a pickle. Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Jakob Poeltl have carried their weight, but they will need their teammates to step up if they want to upset another upstart opponent.
San Antonio Spurs (6-9) at Sacramento Kings (7-6)
November 17, 2022 | 9:00 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs: Zach Collins (Out — Leg), Blake Wesley (Out — Knee), Malaki Branham (Out — Ankle), Romeo Langford (Out — Health and Safety Protocols), Dominick Barlow (Out — Two-Way)
Kings: Keon Ellis (Out — Two Way), Neemias Queta (Out — Two Way), Chima Moneke (Out — On Assignment), Keegan Murray (Questionable — Back)
What To Watch For
- De’Aaron Fox has always been a gifted athlete, but it finally looks like his physical tools and basketball skills have collided at a perfect intersection. The sixth-year floor general has rounded out his scoring arsenal, adding a lethal midrange jumper and reliable pull-up three. Those newfound facets of his game have kept defenses guessing and allowed him to finish 84.1% of his shots at the rim, the best percentage among all point guards in the league. Fox is averaging 24.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists while shooting a career-best 54.1% from the field. This season is the first time Sacramento has sported a winning record more than 12 games into their schedule since Dave Joerger called plays from the sidelines in 2019, and if that team success continues, Fox could earn his first All-Star appearance. The Kings will lean on their fleet-footed playmaker to initiate a fair share of their high-octane attack, but who will head coach Gregg Popovich call upon to slow him down? Though Tre Jones might get a crack at pestering Fox for a few possessions, Jeremy Sochan could be the man for the job. The rookie has showcased his positional versatility over the last couple of weeks, covering everyone from Steph Curry and Damian Lillard to Paul George and Jamal Murray.
- Jakob Poeltl versus Domantas Sabonis should be the most consequential man-to-man matchup of the night. Each seven-footer plays a vital role as the facilitating hub for their respective offense, delivering pinpoint passes to cutters and shooters as they survey the court from the high post. Their phenomenal screening, sealing, and timing on handoffs and pick-and-rolls create scoring opportunities for teammates, which places them in rarified air with a handful of players who can impact a game without touching the ball. Sabonis has the unquestioned edge as a back-to-the-basket bucket-getter and pick-and-pop threat. though Poeltl is lightyears ahead as a rim protector. The battle on the boards that is certain to unfold between two of the best rebounders in the NBA could determine which team emerges victorious, and every extra possession will pay dividends. San Antonio’s starting center is fresh off a career-high 31 points against the Blazers on Tuesday, where he notched his sixth double-double of the young season. That was an outlier performance. Regardless, Poeltl might have a chance to duplicate that success against a Sacramento defense that has allowed 117 points per game.
- The Spurs and Kings share plenty of stylistic similarities on the offensive end, which isn’t all that unexpected considering head coach Mike Brown spent nine combined seasons as an assistant under Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr. Both teams are top ten in pace, three-point attempts, assists, passes made, drives, handoffs, and cuts. Their overarching principles of continuous player movement, frequent ball reversal, and quick decision-making dictate the success of their uptempo attacks. Sacramento is more efficient from almost every spot on the hardwood, and they cough up the ball much less frequently than their southern counterpart. With a proven All-Star in Domantas Sabonis, an incredible advantage creator in De’Aaron Fox, a top-four pick in Keegan Murray, and a battalion of sharpshooters to surround them, the Kings are simply further along in their developmental timeline than the Silver and Black. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell may one day reach household name status. For now, the promising youngsters count on teammates to generate most of their offense as they experiment with the limits of their self-creation packages. Training wheels are critical at this stage, but Keldon and Vassell are gradually progressing to a place where they can handle more on-ball reps.
For the Kings fans’ perspective, please visit Sactown Royalty.
The Game Thread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action on PtR’s Twitter feed.