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San Antonio vs. Sacramento, Final Score: Spurs rally but can’t close against Kings, lose 112-115

A poor first 2 1⁄2 quarters and huge disadvantage at the FT line doomed the Spurs in their return to the AT&T Center.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs are simply destined to not win a game when trailing entering the fourth quarter, where they are now 0-31 on the season. After a slow start and getting caught in the “first game back from the Rodeo Road Trip” trap, the Spurs made a huge rally from 19 down in the third quarter to briefly take the lead in the fourth, but as has often been the case this season, they used up all their energy making the comeback, had no juice left to actually close out the game and lost 112-115.

Lonnie Walker almost had a career night with 30 points (one below his career-high from last season), 29 of which came in the first three quarters, and Dejounte Murray had a 29-point, 12-rebound double-double. De’Aaron Foxx and Harrison Barnes both had 26 points for the Kings.

Observations

  • Did you know: With last night’s loss to the Pelicans, the Kings are guaranteed a losing record for the 28th time in their 36 seasons in Sacramento. The only eight times they had a winning record — and made the playoffs for that matter — was in their eight seasons under Rick Adelman from 1998-2006. As some may remember, the Spurs were the last team they faced in the postseason, when they beat the Kings in six games in the first round in 2006. Obviously, the Kings didn’t know how good they had it, because perhaps tired of first round exits, they did not renew Adelman’s contract after that season. They have not made the playoffs or had a winning record since.
  • The first game back from the Rodeo Road trip always feels like a trap game. Just happy to be home and out of the rhythm and habits they had built on the road, it’s not uncommon for the Spurs to come out slow, and tonight was no exception. Shots weren’t falling early, everyone felt a little out of place, and the Kings had no trouble getting to the line with 10 free throws in the first quarter. The Spurs only hit 4 of their first 14 shots before Walker hit consecutive threes and would get behind by as much as eight before closing on a 9-4 run to cut the King’s lead to 30-27.
  • At one point in the first quarter, former Spur Trey Lyles had a dunk after the shot clock, and the refs signaled Secaucus for video review. Several dead balls later, the bucket still stood. Gregg Popovich could be heard telling the refs the score hadn’t been removed, while Alvin Gentry was saying it had, so the refs finally went over to the headphones and confirmed that it hadn’t and removed two Kings points. Unfortunately, it was for naught for the Spurs, as they immediately gave the ball back right back to the Kings on a bad pass for two free points.
  • After the little bit of momentum the Spurs had built to end the first quarter, they started the second quarter slow, again getting behind by double figures early. Their only saving grace was Walker, who once again was red hot with 22 points on 9-12 shooting, 4-6 from three in just the first half. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any help, and the Kings kept matching him bucket-for-bucket and built a 64-51 lead going into halftime.
  • I find it odd that Josh Richardson is not getting regular rotation minutes. I get that Pop is trying to use some White’s minutes to give Josh Primo plenty of experience (and Walker and Devin Vassell, for that matter), but he was valuable enough to the team that one would think they’d value what they got in return for him a bit more. I also get that he may not be a part of their future plans — maybe they plan to package of him with their likely stockpile of first rounders to move up in the draft — but in the meantime Walker currently has no scoring help on the bench. It’s great to see him going off, but that doesn’t mean he has to carry the second unit by himself every night.
  • And right has I type that with the Spurs down 79-60 four minutes into the third quarter, in comes Richardson, and the complexion of the game immediately changed. He forced a Harrison Barns turnover, assisted a Jakob Poeltl bucket, and forced another Kings miss before a Vassell three, forcing a Kings timeout. Overall, the Spurs went on 7-0 run when he entered and outscored the Kings by 5 for the six minutes he was on the floor, even though he missed all three of his shots. Even once he was subbed back out, the Spurs were finally in rhythm on both ends and had all the momentum, closing the quarter on an 8-0 run to cut the lead down to 88-82.
  • It was a wild fourth quarter as the Spurs finally tied the game on a 17-3 run. Primo had a couple of much-needed, confidence-boosting buckets with a three and layoff off the steal, and Tre Jones contributed a couple of acrobatic layups. The Spurs eventually gained the lead and got up by four, but they were out of gas, and a 9-0 run by the Kings, who were in the bonus early, got them back up by five with just over a minute left. Murray hit back-to-back threes in the final ten seconds to extend the game and force the Kings to keep making their free throws, but it was too little, too late.
  • One thing that really hurt the Spurs tonight was free throw shooting. They only hit 8-16 on the night, with two of their more reliable shooters combing for 1-6. Jones, who leads the team with 87.8% shooting from the line, went 1-4, and Keldon Johnson, who recently hit 29 straight free throws on the RRT, missed his only two. On the other end, the Kings had the officials’ favor all night and took advantage, hitting 27-32 of their free throws. That was the game right there, as otherwise the Spurs hit seven more field goals and two more threes. So much for home court advantage, even against inferior opponents.

For the Kings fans’ perspective, visit SacTown Royalty.

The Spurs are heading right back out on the road — and back out East — to take on the struggling Charlotte Hornets. Tipoff will be at 6:00 PM CT on CW35.