In a scene that is becoming all too familiar to the Frost Bank Center crowd, the Spurs came out strong against the Sacramento Kings in a win-or-go-home game for them with regards to the In-Season Tournament, getting out to an 18-point lead in the first quarter, but once again they couldn’t hold it for long, completely surrendering it by early in the second-quarter and playing a back-and-forth, roller coaster game the rest of the way. The Kings eventually pulled away late in the fourth quarter to hand the Spurs their 7th straight loss, 120-129.
Zach Collins had by far his best game of the season, just missing his career high with 28 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, while Victor Wembanyama had 27 points and 9 rebounds. De’Aaron Fox had a huge night with 43 points, while Domantas Sabonis hounded the Spurs down low for 27 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists.
- I didn’t cover last Friday’s game against Minnesota, but I can finally say I don’t have a problem with the Spurs’ tournament court. It’s not too overwhelming or bright, and it doesn’t absorb the players like some other courts (such as the Bulls’ red-on-red, or the Pelicans wearing black on a dark purple court). My hope is if the NBA does this again next year, they’ll scale things back a bit, but at least the Spurs aren’t losers in that department this year. (And as I’m finishing this while ESPN has moved on to the next game, I’d say the Jazz’s purple-on-purple-on-purple is too much as well.)
- Julian Champagnie being an emergency starter (in tonight’s case for Devin Vassell) but otherwise not guaranteed rotation minutes off the bench harkens back to the Big Three era, when logic would say if a wing missed time, Manu Ginobili should start, but instead Pop preferred to keep his bench rotation intact and would promote someone else. Champagnie got off to a good start, hitting two threes and dishing three assists as the Spurs raced out to a 23-5 lead.
- It only took two possessions into the second quarter for the Spurs to completely blow yet another double-digit lead at home, mostly thanks to hot shooting from the Kings’ bench, especially Malik Monk. Pop must have gotten so fed up with his bench (which was missing Tre Jones) blowing that lead that he changed things up a bit, giving Blake Wesley and Sandro Mamukelashvili some early run. Neither had too much individual impact, although Mamu did have a big offensive rebound that led to a Zach Collins three to regain the lead after they had gotten behind by as much as seven.
- Speaking of Collins, he had a huge first half with 17 points on 7-8 shooting, including 2-2 from three, helping lead the Spurs back after that 25-point swing and tie things up at halftime. At first it appeared he had the first 20-point half of his career, but it turned out the scorekeepers had initially awarded a three made by Doug McDermott to Collins. The box score was fixed by halftime.
- Knowing rim protection is the Kings’ biggest weakness, Wemby got some extra run at center, as Charles Bassey only saw two minutes of action. There were times he seemed to not realize his advantage, as he often settled for rushed and contested jumpers instead of attacking the paint. When he did take his time and get set on jumpers, the results were better. As Doc Rivers pointed, he’s much further along on face-ups than turnarounds.
- It was another disastrous start to the third quarter for the Spurs, with the Kings starting on a 15-4 run and stretching their lead out to as much as 16 while Spurs committed blunder after blunder on the offensive end. However, they recovered this time (and once again on the back of Collins’ play) to get back within a point at the end of the quarter on a Mamu floater at the buzzer.
- The fourth quarter had a lot less offensive flow to it, in large part because the refs got whistle happy. Sabonis was especially a menace, creating contact and banging his way to the line, all while getting away with some grabbing and leaning on screens despite precariously playing on five fouls of his own. Keldon Johnson had three threes in the quarter to help keeping the Spurs close, but they just couldn’t get enough stops to keep up, resulting in yet another home loss in which they led by double digits at some point, but in a way this game feels a bit more forgivable. Maybe because the lead was so early, or maybe I’m getting too use to it. No telling.
The Spurs will be right back in the Frost Bank Center tomorrow to take on one of the few teams in the league with a worse record than them, the Ja Morant (and now Marcus Smart)-less Memphis Grizzlies. Tip-off will be at 7:00 PM CT on Bally Sports.