The Spurs and the Kings played an entertaining, high-octane matchup on Sunday in which the better team ultimately prevailed. A game that was mostly close was decided by a timely run that the visitors made in the third quarter in order to pull ahead and manage their lead to get a 132-119 win in San Antonio.
Coming into the game, everyone expected it to be an offensive showdown, as the Kings have the third-best offense in the league but the 25th-best defense and the young Spurs can’t stop anyone but can get hot in a hurry. The predictions were right, as the teams combined for 123 points in the first half, with San Antonio shooting 63.6 from the floor and Sacramento hitting six threes and getting 13 trips to the line. Things didn’t change much in the second half, but the visitors simply had more firepower and made some stops when they needed them, and that was the difference on Sunday.
At the start, everything the Spurs were getting was close to the rim, as Jakob Poeltl was going right at Domantas Sabonis and getting the best of him often, especially on the pick-and-roll. The Kings’ offense took a while to really start flowing, but some mismatches in the post resulted in three-pointers after double teams, which allowed the visitors to stay within range despite a quiet few minutes from De’Aaron Fox. As the second units came in, it seemed like Sacramento had the upper hand, but good stretches from Stanley Johnson and Josh Richardson kept the Spurs in it. After one, the Silver and Black were down only one point.
Parity continued in the second quarter, with both teams mostly sticking to their strengths on offense. The Spurs were getting to the paint while the Kings were relying on Sabonis, who improved as the minutes went on and put both San Antonio rotation centers in foul trouble, to carry the scoring and playmaking loads. Tre Jones was huge for the home team in the second 12 minutes, doing a little bit of everything to keep them afloat, including throwing down a surprising putback dunk near the end of the half. After nine lead changes, San Antonio was up one at the break but it was clear that the team that got a few stops in a row was going to take it home.
Unfortunately for the crowd at the AT&T Center, the Kings were the ones to do it. After a surprisingly fun back-and-forth battle between Poeltl and Sabonis that featured some crafty buckets, Sacramento continued to score while the Spurs went through a small drought. Normally they wouldn’t have been punished by it, but as mentioned, the visitors know how to get points on the board. With Poeltl in foul trouble, Sabonis was free to dominate and the threes were falling for the guys in purple. In a flash, the Kings were up 13 and it became clear that it was going to be tough for San Antonio to come back while struggling so much on defense.
Credit to the Spurs, they did try. The second unit made a few energy plays and the starters continued to play hard when they re-entered the game down nine and eventually cut the lead to five after three straight three-pointers. It just wasn’t enough. Fox took over and delivered timely buckets and the mini-runs from both teams benefited a Kings side that created separation at the right time. Some big Josh Richardson makes provided at least some suspense, but Sacramento mostly looked in control en route to a big win that keeps their winning streak alive.
- Keldon Johnson needed 25 shots to get 20 points, mostly because he missed eight of his 10 three-point attempts. The two he made came in consecutive possessions, which was exciting at the time but doesn’t make up for his struggles the rest of the night. A reliable three-pointer is a must for Johnson and lately, he just hasn’t had one.
- The Poeltl vs. Sabonis matchup was a delight to watch. The two bigs went at each other all night, with Sacramento’s All-Star getting the best of Jakob in the end but not without some issues of his own. Poeltl finished the game with 23 points, seven rebounds and two blocks while Sabonis had just 18 points but 14 rebounds and eight assists.
- On a night in which neither Blake Wesley nor Malaki Branham were bright spots, Jeremy Sochan made sure that at least one rookie had a decent game. Sochan had 15 points, eight rebounds and two assists, and he did that while being frustrated enough at the officials to earn a technical in the third quarter.
- Some contender has to be getting ready to pull the trigger on a trade for Richardson, right? The combination of playmaking, outside shooting and solid defense should be too alluring to pass up. Against the Kings the veteran wing finished with 21 points and four assists, coming through on some tough times for the Spurs. He’s a little inconsistent, but off the bench he could help others as much as he’s helped San Antonio so far. If he’s moved, Stanley Johnson, who was great in his minutes, should be ready to step in.
- Former Spurs Chimezie Metu and Trey Lyles combined for 20 points off the bench for the Kings. Lyles had some acrobatic finishes and Metu was largely helpful in a small role. It’s good to see those guys finding a home after unsuccessful stints in San Antonio.
Play of the game
There were a lot of buckets on Sunday, but only one was worth $10 thousand. Congratulations to that lucky fan.
Next game: vs. the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will visit the AT&T Center, so it’s hard to imagine the Spurs’ five-game losing streak ending then.