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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Sacramento Kings

The Spurs and Kings meet in an extended Freaky Friday for both franchises

Sacramento Kings v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Sacramento Kings.

Back in the early aughts, when they were helmed by the still-underrated Rick Adelman, they played some of the most aesthetically pleasing and fundamentally sound basketball of the era (which Pop and the 2014 Spurs almost certainly borrowed from on the offensive end).

And it was easy to sympathize with them after they too had a critical playoff series stolen from them in favor the Los Angeles Lakers. To many it seemed more a matter of when not if they would take home the Larry O’ Brien, with already deteriorating relations between Kobe and Shaq growing chillier and more public by the minute.

They had a shrewd and likable head coach, players who played relatively selflessly, and while I certainly didn’t root for them while the Spurs were still alive in the postseason, I frequently had them selected as my fallback in the event that the Silver and Black found themselves headed home early.

They, like the Spurs (and soon after, the Pistons), felt like the basketball antithesis to the glitz and drama of the Lakers, as well as to the proliferation of that ungainly style known as iso-ball.

But the Kings never did recover from that ‘loss’ to the purple and gold. Injuries, free agency, and the incredibly shortsighted refusal to extend Adelman led to a decades long free-fall that the Kings only managed to pull themselves out of last season.

Previous ownership attempted to move the team, but were thwarted by some of the most passionate small-market fans in all of professional sports. (Seriously, how many times can you recall fans successfully stopping a move?) Heck, they even had their blog shut down.

That the renewal of that franchise should come at the exact moment that the Spurs went into the first true rebuild of the Popovich era feels somewhat poetic.

The Spurs (and their fans) have now endured 4 consecutive losing seasons, matching the longest stretch in franchise history. One more would earn them a dubious record, coming (rather ironically) during the term of their most successful head coach. To my knowledge, no NBA coach has presided over so many consecutive losing seasons and won a championship (much less multiple) with the same team.

However, the Spurs have already had the good fortune to draft what looks to be another franchise icon rather than find themselves stuck in a prolonged spiral. Kings fans should enjoy this while the can. The Spurs won’t be down for long.

Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs

November 17th, 2023 | 6:30 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest|Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Devin Vassell - Out (Hip), Tre Jones - Doubtful (Leg), Keldon Johnson - Probable (Knee), Sandro Mamukelashvili - Probable (Back)

Kings Injuries: Alex Len - Out (Ankle), Trey Lyles - Out (Calf)

What to watch for:

Front-court Adjustments

If you’ve watched the Spurs for any extended stretch this season, you’re aware that their lineups have trended towards playing two big men, with Zach Collins and Charles Bassey taking turns protecting and preserving Victor Wembanyama. However, some of the team’s best moments have come with Wembanyama playing center, and San Antonio’s oversized front-court is likely to get tested in this one, especially on the heels of both the Thunder and Heat going small to beat them. NBA teams have staff members dedicated to noticing these sorts of advantages (it was a big part of Erik Spoelstra’s early career/rise), and the Kings have already been going small both this and last season. With Alex Len out, the Kings will almost certainly look to use their speed to break down San Antonio’s youthfully leaky perimeter defense, or simply force San Antonio big men not named Victor the come out to the perimeter with a bevvy of capable shooters. Will Pop stick to his big-heavy plan, or will he adapt to Sacramento’s savvy scheming?

Sharpshooting Sochan

A lot of things have been said about Jeremy Sochan, both on this site and in the twittersphere, but something that’s flown somewhat under the radar has been his drastic improvement in long-distance shooting. While he’s far from a finished catch-and-shoot product, the increase in confidence and improvement in form have him shooting %42 percent from beyond the arc on roughly two attempts per game (up from %25 at similar frequency), somewhat mirroring the Keldon Johnson’s improvement from his age 21 to age 22 seasons. It’s easy to forget that Sochan is only 20 years old, but he’s already showcasing the kind of work ethic that Kawhi Leonard displayed during the lockout in 2011, and while I don’t think that comparing the two is fair per se, I do find myself wondering what Jeremy’s rookie season would have looked like if he’d had the extended off-season to work on his shot that Leonard did. Either way, it’s hard to say that work hasn’t been paying off.

For the Kings’ fans’ perspective, visit The Kings Herald.

PtR’s Game thread 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.