With no DeMarcus Cousins and Darren Collison available, the Sacramento Kings would have needed a minor miracle to beat the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. For about three quarters they hung tough in a see-saw affair, but could not execute down the stretch as the veteran Spurs ran away with the game by a final score of 107-96.
The Kings got big performances from their sophomore guard duo. Ben McLemore was about as aggressive as we've seen him all season, using his improved ballhandling ability to attack off the dribble. McLemore got to the free throw line a career-high 12 times, hitting 10, and barely missed from the field to score 21 points on only 8 shots. Ray McCallum was quiet at halftime but exploded in the third and fourth quarters, using his quickness and strong frame to attack the rim both in transition and in the halfcourt. McCallum scored 20 points on 8 shots and added 3 assists.
With the Spurs nursing a two point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Kings collapsed. The biggest culprit was Rudy Gay, who only scored 2 points in the quarter to go along with 4 turnovers. Kawhi Leonard was in his jersey all game, and in the fourth clamped down on Gay and shut down the Kings offense. Gay ended the game with 16 points on 15 shots and an atrocious 8 turnovers. McCallum kept the Kings in the game with his 8 fourth quarter points, but the Kings failed to get McLemore involved enough, at times forcing the ball far too much into an ineffective Gay. The Kings only scored 18 points in the period and coughed up the ball 8 times.
The Spurs were able to beat the Kings in several key categories. The Kings did a decent job taking care of the ball up until the fourth, but that last flurry propelled the final tally to 17, while the Spurs only turned it over 5 times. In George Karl's offense, the Kings need to force more turnovers in order to get out on the fast break. The defense was fine overall, holding the Spurs to only 39.8% shooting, but the Spurs simply did not give the ball up. The Kings also hit only one three pointer on the night, a last second heave by McLemore, but only took four total attempts. They did a good job getting to the rim, scoring 50 points in the paint, but too often they would force tough shots near the basket against the likes of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter and failed to kick the ball out to shooters while the defense was collapsed.
Ultimately, it was a good step forward for the team while trying to learn George Karl's philosophy. Without Cousins, the team this year has basically been a lifeless corpse, and tonight was a step forward in attempting to find a way to win without the All-Star big man. There is still much work to do of course, but baby steps.
- Sleep Train Arena was rocking tonight. Its good to see the fanbase re-energized after two months of a soul-sucking quagmire.
- Jason Thompson played his heart out. Filled in at the center position about as well as anyone could have. Boogie leaves huge shoes to fill, and Jason did everything within his talent level he could.
- Reggie Evans was comedy gold at times this game. Between taking midrange jumpers with plenty of time left on the shot clock and dribbling the ball up the court, there were laughs and there were tears.
- Carl Landry looks sloooooow. There was a play where he just let the ball roll right past him which the Spurs happily took the other way for an open dunk. He got it going in the third a bit, but he's clearly lost a step.
- #FingersCrossedKid was adorable
- Scot Pollard is a great color commentator. Seriously awesome.
- Things got hot and sweaty between Manu and a ref. I think I've seen this soap opera.