The Spurs started March on an 8-3 run including a 108-103 win against the Kings in Bat Bowl II. But a six game losing streak followed after Tim Duncan landed awkwardly; an MRI later confirmed he sprained his left ankle. An all-out injury epidemic followed, with Tony Parker going out with a left patella contusion, and Manu Genobili sustained a bruised left thigh. On Sunday, San Antonio faced a Suns team without Steve Nash and put an end to the losing streak, and everyone is back and healthy now.
With 4 games to go, the Spurs have a record of 59-19 and are 3.5 games ahead of the Lakers for the outright lead in the Western Conference. And they continue to dominate at home with a record of 34-5 so their last 2 home games against the Kings Wednesday and Jazz on Saturday could clinch the top spot in the Western.
In our first meeting of the season back on Feb. 4th, the Spurs got out to a 34-19 lead and after that the game was never in doubt. Duncan played only 13 first half minutes and then watched the remainder of the game from the bench. DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter combined for 26 pts/ 21 rebs, while Dalembert and Cousins combined for 7 pts and 18 rebs. Garcia was out, but Tyreke was available and scored 25pts/ 5 asts/ 4 rebs in just under 40 minutes.
In our second game, The Night of the Killer Bat, down in San Antonio, the Kings kept it close for most of the game; losing the 1st quarter by two and finishing the half down 6. The Kings got 2 back in the third and started the fourth down only 4; the Kings couldn't close the deal and lost 108-103. The Kings did take a 91-88 lead with 5:34 to go in the fourth after Jermaine Taylor hit a 3-pointer and a pair of layups. But Taylor was unable to stay with Ginobili who scored nine points during a 14-2 run that put the game away.
James Anderson started at SF for the Spurs in place of Richard Jefferson, who had the night off due to personal reasons. And, Antonio McDyess started at center in place of DeJuan Blair who had been the starting center since the beginning of the season. McDyess has start the last 13 games, while Blair has seen his minutes drop from 26 in Feb. to 19.7 in March and now 15.5 in April as he comes off the bench.
The Kings were without Tyreke who was undergoing PF treatment, and Beno stayed home with the flu and missed the road trip. Newly acquired Marcus Thornton playing in only his 8 game since joining the Kings, started at the 2 and scored 11pts on 5-14 shooting. Luther Head started in place of Beno and scored 7 pts on 3-6 shooting. Sammy and DeMarcus struggled against Duncan and McDyess, scoring only 12 pts and pulling down 18 rebounds. Taylor and Casspi led the Kings with 16 pts off the bench.
The turnovers were even at 14, and the Kings outscored the Spurs by 1 pt from the field. But, San Antonio got to the FT Line 10 more times leading to 6 more pts from the charity stripe to account for the 5 pt victory 108-103. A little bit of stat trivia for you, the Kings have a 35% winning percentage when their FT attempts are equal to or more than their opponents and their winning percentage is 22% when they have fewer FT attempts. Playing defense without fouling or spending more money to pay off the refs, needs to be a high priority next season.
In spite of Tony Parker's bruised kneecap, he's right on par with his seasonal average of 17.6 pts/ 6.6 asts, but in the last 10 his 3P% has dropped below 33% and he's only 2-11 or 18% in the last 5 games. Manu Ginobili is also having a tough time since he bruised his thigh, and is slightly below average over the last 10 games but in the last 5 games he's only averaging 12 points on 41% shooting from the field and 29% from three point range. Tim Duncan seems to be showing little effect of his injury, scoring 13pts and 8.3 rebs on 55% from the field over the last 10 games.
Richard Jefferson is still on pace with his average for the season scoring 11 pts/ 4 rebs on 48% from the field and 44% from three on almost 300 attempts. Since taking over the starting job 13 games ago, Antonio McDyess is averaging 6.5 pts/ 6.6 rebs on 43% shooting in 23 mpg. George Hill is the only other player scoring in double figures with 11 pts/ 2.5 asts on 45.6% field and 38% from three.
Coach Popovich goes with a pretty long bench so expect to see Matt Bonner play some 4, but his 3Pt shooting has dropped below 50% to a mere 46.5%. Tiago Splitter could see a few more minute because of his success against the Kings in the last game depending how close we get. But, I'd put him, James Anderson, DeJuan Blair, and Gary Neal all in the 15 mpg, and all in the 3-8 ppg range except Neal who is definitely a double figures guy.
In spite of the closeness of the last game, I got the feeling that if Pop had put his starters in together for any length of time that they would have pulled away and put the game out of reach. Of course we were without Beno and Tyreke, and Luther starting, so this should be a whole new ballgame. Not that I think that the Kings are going to win; the Kings haven't beaten the Spurs since Nov. 2007 that's 11 straight games. The Kings can't win a jump shooting contest with the Spurs. They're going to have to control the boards, eliminate stupid turnovers, and get out on as many fast breaks as they can. Trying to win a half-court game is also not a good strategy. They have the experience and we have the legs. Both teams are on the 2nd game of a back-to-back, so maybe that will play in favor of the Kings who have the younger legs. So like they said in the Forest Gump movie, "Run Kings Run".