The first time the Kings were in San Antonio, they played a spirited first half in which someone off the bench (Spencer Hawes) came in and injected some life into the team. The problem was they didn’t close out the second quarter properly, the Spurs got some distance in the process and never really looked back.
In Wednesday night’s game in San Antonio, the Kings once again played a spirited first half in which they recovered from mistakes and were sparked by someone off the bench (Omri Casspi). They ran with the Spurs. They played active defense to cause some turnovers and issues for San Antonio. They got fast break points and knocked down key three-pointers. But once again, they couldn’t close out the second quarter properly and the Spurs took advantage by getting some breathing room in the score.
In the third game of the season, the Spurs used a late second quarter 16-2 run to take over this game. Last night, they closed out the final 3:25 of the second period with a 14-0 run. It was due to simple mistakes by the Kings. Casspi missed two free throws and then traveled with the ball on the offensive rebound. There was a backcourt violation on a basic Sergio pass to Omri. A couple of dunks by Richard Jefferson sandwiched a couple of threes by Manu Ginobili and the Kings were looking at a nine-point deficit.
Now, with basketball being a game of runs this probably shouldn’t be such a big deal. The Spurs went into the half with a nine-point lead but the Kings will make a run to make the game close. Chances are they’re going to make several runs. The difference though is that when you give a really good team like the Spurs (the rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated) a cushion to work with, they’re able to properly weather those runs.
Throughout all of the runs, the Kings made them while the clock was running. This may seem like an obvious statement but the point to it is the fact that the Kings never really got to the line to cut into the lead. The Spurs biggest advantage during a game like this is the clock running down. They build up a big cushion, keep everything ticking and run the clock out. They were the equivalent of a solid defensive football team with a great running game.
Once again the Kings couldn’t make free throws (more on this later today). Hell, they couldn’t even shoot free throws. They attempted just 15 in the entire game. Manu Ginobili off the bench attempted more than half of that. Sacramento just wasn’t very physical throughout this game. They moved into the spaces, found open shots, and seemed to avoid contact. But they never really ATTACKED what San Antonio was trying to do defensively. The Spurs only committed 14 personal fouls in this game. 14!!! That’s fewer than Greg Oden had in his first two summer league games!
As for the Kings defense, there just wasn’t much they could do against the Spurs to slow them down. The Spurs were flat out hot with their scoring. They made eight of their nine three-point attempts. They shot 55% from the field and only had 48 of their 118 points in the paint. Manu came into the game and played like the Manu of old. Duncan and Parker had nice, efficient games. Richard Jefferson played like he was good. Everything just worked for the Spurs.
Casspi, Evans and JT had good games for the Kings but outside of Omri there wasn’t much that was spectacular for Sacramento. Evans’ 19 points came on a very Brandon Jennings like 20 shot attempts (see the petty little dig there?). Nobody attempted over five free throws attempts and nobody made over three of them. There were a really good number of points in the paint with the Kings getting 62 inside. But not defending the three and not getting to the line pretty much neutralized their work inside.
This is now the fourth straight four-game streak by the Kings. They have won four, lost four, won four and lost four over their past 16 games. Which is encouraging for the Saturday night when they face the Wolves at home.