San Antonio (20-58) claimed a gutty road win 142-134 over the presumptive Pacific Division Champion Kings with a staggering 78 bench points. In the loss, Sacramento (47-31) had its overtime record for the season fall to 4-1, while the Spurs edged up to 1-5. The teams traded baskets for the first couple of minutes in the extra frame until the duo of Doug McDermott and Malaki Branham spearheaded a game-ending 15-7 run fueled by six consecutive makes propelling the Spurs to the stunning victory over the 3-seed Kings.
In a frenetic first quarter that foreshadowed a great pace for the remainder of this great matchup, Malaki Branham scored at all three levels rather easily, while De’Aaron Fox led a balanced attack from the favored Kings. It was the short-staffed Spurs team that led by as much as nine in the stanza before exiting it up 32-30.
The Kings quickly jumped back on top to start the second with the damage being done by a variety of contributors. Free agent swingman Julian Champagnie surged into double digit scoring with an array of impressive offensive buckets to help San Antonio keep pace. After several moments of ragged play between the team, a flourish from Champagnie and McDermott along with a Dominick Barlow jam helped the Spurs go up by five at the break.
San Antonio maintained a tenuous hold of the lead behind Tre Jones’ persistent drives to the basket, while Sabonis scored and set-up at will over whichever Spurs defender was stationed on or near him. A four-point play by Champagnie and gritty three-point play by Jones helped their team nab their biggest advantage of 11. Sacramento mounted a comeback to end the third with a Sabonis three bringing the Kings within one. However, a McDermott three extended the Spurs up four.
In a back-and-forth fourth quarter that resembled Game 5 of a playoff series, Alex Len had his way on the inside for the Kings, while McDermott staged a takeover with copious buckets. The Spurs had no answers for Sabonis anywhere in the paint and his free throws erased a three point deficit. Very late freebies by Barlow were answered by a Fox stepback. A sideline Branham turnover that brought back nightmares of Lonnie Walker IV nearly gifted the game to Sacramento, but a Kevin Huerter stepback bounced off the back of the rim.
McDermott’s nearly matched his career high (31) with 30 points, doing most of the damage coming in the second half and beyond, and paced a slew of satisfying performances in the absence of Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Jeremy Sochan, including Jones’ first triple-double (17 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds), 26 points and 6 rebounds from Champagnie, and Barlow (12 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks). In the final appearance of the 2022-23 Fiesta jerseys, retired the uniforms in fine fashion.
Sacramento received its usual stalwart performances from Fox (28 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists) and Domantas Sabonis (26 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists) and will likely keep its current playoff seeding.
- From my subjective experience, the Naismith Hall of Fame weekend tickets for the Friday autograph session sold out in less than 90 minutes, while the availability for the enshrinement on Saturday is rapidly diminishing.
- With the Kings guaranteed actual playoff action this year, I wanted to recall with you the 2016 Tribute ceremony for the recently retired Tim Duncan - specifically how Manu Ginobili commemorated the way Timmy responded to him during that 2006 Spurs/Kings playoff series (starting at about the 3:15 mark) when San Antonio coughed up game 4 in Sacramento on a Manu turnover and a Kevin Martin buzzer-beating layup. It’s well worth a full re-listen. Though the Spurs went onto defeat the Kings 4-2 before losing to Dallas 4-3 in the conference semi-finals, this ended up being one of the cooler ‘never heard before’ stories that came out of that playoff run.
- Having watched a good amount of Fox’s games here on the West Coast, it is really neat to see him figuring out how to manipulate his blinding speed and bend the defense to his will so easily now. There was a sequence early in the third quarter, where Fox nearly lost the ball to two Spurs defenders, squirted away from them in the lane and deftly earned a 3-point play.
- In terms of draft spot and fit, it seems Malaki Branham’s fit with San Antonio was more naturally occurring comparatively to the impressive Keegan Murray with Sacramento this season. It’s too bad that the national NBA audience may not get to have the Branham experience until year 3 or 4 and beyond.
- Sandro Mamukelashvili is a definite keeper for next season. After Pop called a timeout in the first, while frustrated with a slew of turnovers, Mamu forced a Kings turnover in the backcourt and drew a foul over several players.
- Not to be outdone, shortly after, Blake Wesley soared to swipe a crosscourt pass, and exploded downcourt for a tomahawk jam. He needs to be a featured player in the Summer League. Right now, he’s resembles more of a rookie year version of Fox.
- Not to age most of the Pounders, but the last time Sacramento won a division banner was 2002-2003.
- Regarding the three year run of Fiesta jerseys, please. no. more. camo.
- That pull-up three shooting touch by Zach Collins is something that is so far beyond what the departed Jakob Poeltl was capable of doing at the offensive end.
- Sabonis is so lethal on the catch from the top of the key facing the basket. It’s an advancement of when Dallas would plant Dirk Nowitzki at the spot to let him seek out his favorite jumpshot.
Play of the Game
In an evening where three of San Antonio’s top contributors sat courtside, it required a teamwide effort over 50+ minutes to overcome Sacramento. This play at the start of the second half encapsulated that approach:
Next game: at the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday
The Spurs take on superstars Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night at 9:00 PM CDT