Three Spurs score in the 20’s but the Kings finish the game on top
The San Antonio Spurs lose their 7th straight game – a run which has included three defeats in the NBA In-Season Tournament – and after a 129-120 loss to the Sacramento Kings, the Spurs are officially eliminated from the knockout stages. *Pretends to be shocked*
The Silver & Black got off to a hot start with Victor Wembanyama dominating inside the paint and Julian Champagnie – who started in place of the injured Devin Vassell – hitting shots from beyond the arc. The Spurs led by as much as 18 points in the first quarter thanks to their aggressive style of defense which was leading to Sacramento turnovers and easy transition points for the home side. The Kings who advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons back in the Fall hit back through the play of their two All-Stars, De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. It didn’t get any easier for the Spurs once the bench units came in with the Kings bench making a much bigger impact, mostly due to sharpshooter Malik Monk. After going up nearly 20 points in the opening frame the Spurs ended the quarter only up by two, 31-29.
It didn’t take long into the second period for the Kings to take the lead as they took advantage of some size mismatches down low to score in the paint. Coach Pop tried a few different players tonight in the rotation including Sandro Mamukelashvilli who gave the Spurs a spark in the second quarter with his hustle plays and effort on defense. Pop wasn’t just trying different players to break their losing streak but the Hall-Of-Fame Coach opted for some zone possessions to slow Sacramento’s offense down. For a few minutes in the second it was working as the Spurs were staying connected and rotating as a team to force the Kings into some tough shots and even a shot clock violation. Eventually the visitors got a handle on the zone and had a few offensive possessions where they showed off their ball movement and ended up with open shots to break San Antonio’s zone. On offense it was the Zach Collins show in the first-half, as he stacked up 17 points including two threes and a numbers of tough finishes around the rim against Sabonis. With the Spurs looking like they would take the lead and momentum into the break, Fox hit two threes in the final minute to tie the game up at 62-all heading into the half.
The second-half didn’t start well for the home team with them looking half-asleep on both ends of the floor, making life easy for the Kings who raced away to a double-digit lead just four minutes into the third period. It was then the first-half hero, Zach Collins who provided the energy to pull the Spurs back into the game when it looked like for a moment another blow out was on the horizon. Wemby bounced off that momentum Collins had created as he showcased his talents with a few highlight plays to end the quarter and pull the Spurs back to one, 95-94.
It was then a good start to the fourth for San Antonio with everything being run through Wemby as he made the defense pay with quick and decisive decisions. The Kings weren’t going to just yield to this young Spurs team as they hit back with three after three after three. The Spurs like they had done all night, kept fighting back, this time with Keldon Johnson hitting two outside shots to bring the game level with six minutes to play. What happened next is indicative of what happens to most young teams. The Spurs got out of sorts which led to some rushed shots and some miscommunication on defense, while the Kings who are a more veteran-led team stayed poised and composed and made sure it was Fox & Sabonis getting the ball late to take them home as the visitors came into San Antonio and defeated the Spurs 129-120.
- Poise, Wemby, Poise. One of the next big developments for Victor will be his poise with the basketball. There have been a number of times this season – and just this game alone – where Wemby seems to be rushing his shot, especially when he is near the rim. He is so long that he can afford to bring the ball down before going back up with his shot. Doc Rivers who was on the broadcast made mention of this a number of times and even Coach Pop in “Sounds of the Game” was shown speaking to Wemby about getting his balance and not having to always try to score while in the air. If Vic can improve this part of his game his efficiency will rapidly improve along with it.
- In the lab, Pop? For the first time this season we saw Coach Pop try different players in his rotation which included minutes for Sandro Mamukelashvilli and Blake Wesley. We also saw Charles Bassey only get two minutes of run as the Spurs opted for more Wemby at Center minutes when Collins was on the bench. It looks like Pop is searching for an answer to end this seven game losing streak, especially with Vassell and Tre Jones currently sidelined. I would expect Pop to continue to give players up and down the roster some minutes early on this season as this experimental year continues.
- Help is on the way! Fortunately, it would seem as if Dev & Tre should be back in the lineup shortly with neither injury considered to be long-term, although Pop did indicate pre-game that if they weren’t able to play today it would seem unlikely they would suit up on the second night of a back-to-back against the Grizzlies on Saturday. The Spurs do have four games next week so hopefully both Vassell and Jones will be back during the week.
Player of the Game:
Special Mention: Sandro Mamukelashvilli – 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists in 12 minutes
3rd: Victor Wembanyama – 27 points (12/26, 2/8, 1/1), 9 rebounds, 2 steals in 30 minutes
2nd: Keldon Johnson – 21 points (7/16, 5/9, 2/2), 9 rebounds, 7 assists in 36 minutes
1st: Zach Collins – 28 points (10/14, 3/5, 5/6), 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals in 34 minutes
Play Of The Game
Alien making alien plays:
Next Game: vs. Grizzlies on Saturday
The Spurs are right back at it tomorrow night as they go head-to-head with the Ja-less Memphis Grizzlies.