With 11 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter on Saturday, the Sacramento Kings found themselves down by one point, 94-93, to the San Antonio Spurs. The Kings inbounded the ball and as 10 second ticked away, Rudy Gay (23 points) took a 15-foot jumper that clanked off the rim. As Tony Parker (18 points, 10 assists) grabbed the offensive rebound, it was a moment of relief for the Spurs, as they held on to defeat the Kings 95-93, and snap out of their 3-game losing streak.
Gone from the starting lineup for San Antonio was Othyus Jeffers who was waived in the morning. Inserted was Tiago Splitter returning from a 12-game injury absence and fresh new 10-day signee Shannon Brown, who was signed that morning. The Kings would also play the game without DeMarcus Cousins due to injury.
In the first half, the Spurs maintained pace with the Kings as Sacramento took a 53-52 lead into the half. Minus Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green due to injuries, the Spurs put Brown and Marco Belinelli on Gay, as Gay shot 60% in the first half on his way to 15 points in the first two quarters - most at or near the paint. Tim Duncan (23 points, 17 rebounds) led the Spurs at the break with 11 points and nine rebounds, while Boris Diaw (14 points), Parker, Belinelli, and Patty Mills (15 points) also provided support. Isaiah Thomas (26 points) helped Gay in the first half with 13 points of his own.
In the third quarter, the Spurs’ offense started to look like they were missing Manu Ginobili’s (injured) presence as they shot just 6-of-20 from the field for just 19 points. Shades of Wednesday night’s loss to the Chicago Bulls looked like they were reappearing as the Kings took a 10-point lead with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Spurs, however, would cut the Kings’ lead to 78-71 going into the final quarter.
In the fourth, Duncan and Mills would kick off the quarter with a 9-2 run to help the Spurs tie the Kings at 80. Matt Bonner would score seven points in a row to help the Spurs take an 87-85 lead midway through the quarter. Both teams would battle to the final minute, and then with 56 seconds remaining, Parker would knock down a 24-foot three pointer to give the Spurs a 94-91 lead.
Brown’s 14 minutes – observations and possible injury
Brown played 14 minutes in three quarters as he finished with two points, two rebounds, one assist, one turnover, and three fouls. Some positive observations – he was very active and didn’t just stand still on either side of the ball. He was also very active in trying to go after rebounds on either side of the ball. He had a play where he was given the ball and found Parker out in the open court for a transition layup. Negative observations – obviously, with Brown just getting signed in the morning, he was lost on both sides of the ball a good amount of the time. At times on offense, players would have to tell him where to run to and where to stand, while on defense he would get confused on switches and double-team scenario’s and the man he was guarding would also leave him when Brown was caught ball-watching. With the Spurs not playing until Monday, Brown will have one more day to continue to learn as much about their system in the next 48 hours.
In the third quarter, Brown looked like he injured his finger on a play. He stayed on the floor, but was in pain by his facial expressions, and kept his left hand in a clutched fist formation. When he went to the bench in the third, trainer Will Sevening was working on his hand, and Brown never returned to the game. After the game, Brown told the media he thinks he’ll be fine. Brown also took a shot to one of his eyes as he was sitting on the bench, and Gay ran into the Spurs’ bench, and poked Brown in the eye.
Diaw shuts down Gay in fourth quarter
In the fourth quarter, Diaw was given the task of defending Gay. Gay finished with 1 point and went 0-of-5 shooting in the fourth with Diaw defending him the whole time. It helped to have Splitter back, as Splitter also forced Gay to miss two layups in the fourth. On Gay’s final miss that could have been the game-winner for the Kings, it was Diaw who got a hand in Gay’s face. Gay went from scoring 15 points in the first half to just 8 in the second half. Check out his shot chart between the two halves and you can see how in the fourth, Diaw had an effect on Gay’s production.
Splitter returns, and so does versatility
Though he played just 16 minutes in his return from injury and collected four rebounds, Splitter’s presence of just being back out on the floor allowed the Spurs to put out more versatile lineups. At one point in the second quarter, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was able to play Splitter at center, Jeff Ayres at power forward, and Diaw at small forward. During that stretch, the Kings had a tough time scoring in the paint as their looks were being contested. In the fourth, when Gay would get away from Diaw with a screen it was Splitter there to contest two of his layups.
“He looked solid,” said Popovich of Splitter after the game. “He moved well. He didn't look like he was holding back at all. He came out really well so that’s a good sign.”
“It felt good,” said Splitter of being back on the court. “It was great to be back on the court with the guys. I wasn’t that aggressive on offense, but I just tried to help the guys on defense with the coverage and helps. Most importantly we won so I’m happy.”
Before the game, word came out that Green would be returning to the lineup sometime next week. After the game Duncan discussed how receiving more help is good sign. “Yeah, they’re trickling in so it’s great,” said Duncan of Splitter and Green returning. “Great to have bodies back out there. Great to start getting everybody healthy. They can start getting their rhythm back and their wind back. Get into game shape.”
· Duncan dominates Cousin-less Kings – Duncan finished the game with 23 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks in 34 minutes. Without Cousins in the game, the Kings’ thinner front line of Jason Thompson and Aaron Gray had a tough night containing Duncan in the low block. According to the Spurs’ PR department, Duncan recorded his 50th career-game with 20-or-more points, 15-or-more rebounds and 5-or-more assists. It was his fourth game of the season with 20-plus points and 15-plus rebounds.
· Mills and Diaw lead Spurs’ bench – On a night when Marco Belinelli continued to stay in a shooting slump going 2-of-7 from three point range, Mills and Diaw provided the scoring punch off the bench as Mills finished with 15 points and Diaw with 14 points. The Spurs’ bench as a whole outscored the Kings’ bench 48-25. Along with the passing, every bench player who received minutes tallied at minimum, one assist.
· Spurs’ defense emerges in fourth quarter – The Spurs saved their best defensive quarter for the last one, as they held the Kings to 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting (25%) in the final quarter. The Spurs also shut down the paint as they outscored the Kings 10-0 in the final quarter. Thomas and Gay, Sacramento’s leading scorers, combined for just 6 points in the final 12 minutes.
“I thought our defense was really good,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich of his team’s defense in the fourth quarter. “I thought we did a fine job getting stops and finishing. There is no stop until you get the board and I thought we did that.”
Where San Antonio Stands
· Regular Season: 34-13
· Home Record: 18-8
· Vs. Opponents with -.500 records: 19-1
(All stats used via NBA.com/Stats)