Spurs are already on a busy road trip, in the midgame of a FIGASENI and into their third game in four nights. It didn’t help that they were already short of a few rotation players for the trip, and they became even more understaffed when Keldon Johnson and Doug McDermott were both eliminated just before tipoff from various aches and pains. The result was rather the same for Spurs: a slow start without their offensive leader, more competent play in the middle quarters that gave them a fighting chance, but everything collapsed in the fourth quarter and a smashing defeat to Spurs ensued Sacramento Kings130-112.
The first quarter alone was a running game. The Kings started the game 19-6 and culminated in a timeout by Gregg Popovich after his team gave up an open three in transition. The lead was extended further to 22-6 before Spurs responded with a 14-4 run of their own to get straight back into the game, thanks in large part to 11 points from the first quarter from emergency starter Keita Bates-Diop, who got the Game ended night 16. Some errors prevented Spurs from getting any closer, but Isaiah Roby brought some energy off the bench and a three on the buzzer to put Spurs within seven, 30-37.
But then the second quarter began, and the scoreboard was mysteriously missing two points. Spurs instead trailed 28:37, apparently because Bates-Diop was at one point credited with a bucket that didn’t actually happen. It’s hard to believe that something like this could go unnoticed by literally everyone (including me), but alas. Regardless, both teams played relatively evenly in the second quarter, with the Kings maintaining a 5-9 point lead almost throughout while the Spurs did enough to remain competitive and were 56-63 behind at halftime against a buzzer- Introduce Beater by Devin Vassell.
The Spurs came out of the third quarter a little stronger and eventually began to break away from the Kings’ lead, tying things up at 69 apiece when Jeremy Sochan posterized Domonta’s Sabonis for one and one. There were several more ties throughout the quarter, but the Spurs never managed to create multiple chances to take the lead and a 7-0 run by the Kings got them right back to where they left off at halftime and ended that third quarter with seven, 89:82.
That run gave the Kings energy to start the fourth quarter and the Spurs fell apart completely, both under some pressure on the court and the umpires suddenly extremely happily whistled in favor of Sacramento, who saw the Spurs in free throw attempts for the night doubled. The Kings quickly extended the lead to 18, with former Spurs Trey Lyles and Chimeze Metu doing all sorts of damage they never did in San Antonio. Spurs cut the lead back to 13 with just over 6 minutes to go, forcing a timeout from Mike Brown, but the lead stayed in the teens for the rest of the night, and Spurs dropped the third straight game of their West Coast swing. 112-130.
- With Johnson and McDermott as well as Zach Collins, Romeo Langford and Blake Wesley, the Spurs’ second unit consisted of the hodgepodge of Josh Richardson, Jordan Hall, Isaiah Roby, Charles Bassey and Gorgei Dieng. That’s probably not a unit many thought they’d see outside of trash time, but they held up better than expected for much of the night, thanks largely to two-way play from Roby, who posted a season-high 11 had points (although they all came in the first half).
- Both coaches used their duels in the third quarter to different results. Brown challenged Sochan’s big dunk, arguing that it should have been an offensive foul since his knee led into Sabonis’ gut. It was unsuccessful as the referees determined it was a natural shooting movement. However, Pop was successful when he challenged a clean Roby block, initially labeled a foul, and it was Spurs ball on the touchline. (Unfortunately, that meant he was no longer up for the challenge, and there were several dubious calls during King’s game-changing run in the fourth quarter.)
- Bassey Mania returned to earth tonight as after a few dunks he struggled to contribute much more than three turnovers and two fouls, both on offense. In a sign that Pop is starting to see him as part of the rotation and not just a two-way player, he was chewed out after a few Tony Parker-style errors, and Gorgei Dieng got a run as a backup center in the second and fourth quarters.
game of the game
Spurs had several highlights, particularly in the middle two quarters, but of course it has to go to Sochan and “The Dunk.” As previously mentioned, he brutalized Sabonis so much that Brown even challenged the game for an offensive foul to no avail.
Next: Saturday @ Los Angeles Clippers
The Spurs now travel to Los Angeles to end their FIGASENI on the west coast with a duel against both LA teams, beginning with the Clippers. Spurs gave them a fight at home a few weeks ago but couldn’t seal the deal so maybe they’ll get their revenge. On the other hand, Kawhi Leonard played tonight…