Kings Hang Tough But Spurs Execute Down Stretch


Dec 29, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) reacts after a shot during the second half against the Sacramento Kings at the AT

There are times when all you can do is tip your cap to a more talented, savvy team that simply executes when it matters most. For the Sacramento Kings, Sunday in San Antonio was one of those times. Riding the high of their best win of the season, the Kings entered the contest against the Spurs with confidence. For three quarters, that and some stellar individual efforts was enough to hang with the Western Conference champions. But when the game hit crunch time, it was no surprise to see the Spurs vets make the plays needed to recapture the lead and hold on to it. Despite a valiant effort, the Kings fell to San Antonio, 112-104.

SPURS GUARDS CLOSE IT OUT — There are definitely areas to nitpick on the Kings side, but when you step back, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili just hit a ton of clutch shots to bury Sacramento. Ginobili gave Ben McLemore (31 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-7 FG, 2 TO) a free lesson, taking the Kings rookie to school with his offensive arsenal. Parker was relatively quiet, but he chimed in late, knocking down a crucial three-pointer in the corner, followed by a tough 20-footer. The pair combined for 13 of the Spurs final 16 points, and also were critical to the Spurs defense, which kept the Kings from getting into their offense in the final minutes.

Dec 29, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) drives to the basket as San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter (22) defends during the second half at the AT

KINGS THREE-HEADED ATTACK — An early deficit was erased when Isaiah Thomas, Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins came alive to ignite a 38-point third quarter. Thomas (36 MIN, 27 PTS, 10-17 FG, 5-6 3FG, 9 AST, 4 REB, 2 TO) had the hottest hand of the bunch, firing at will from downtown and finding space in the midrange on his way to 15 third-quarter points. Gay (39 MIN, 24 PTS, 10-20 FG, 9 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 0 TO) continued to serve as the Kings steady scorer who can create his own shot from anywhere on the court. His smooth, high release gave the Spurs fits, and the only disappointment was that the Kings didn’t run more offense through their small forward. Down low, Cousins (37 MIN, 29 PTS, 11-23 FG, 7-9 FT, 14 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 0 TO) started hot and carried the team’s offense in stretches, but his production faded as the game went on. Despite being involved in a majority of plays, Cousins scored just six fourth-quarter points. Nonetheless, this game showed that Sacramento has three clear weapons, all of whom can take over a game at any moment. The three scored 80 of the Kings 104 points.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS — Jason Thompson (37 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-8 FG, 11 REB, 1 AST, 2 BLK, 1 TO) did some solid dirty work on the glass, especially on the offensive end. But he missed some real easy looks around the basket that hurt the Kings momentum on occasion …. The Kings turned the ball over just seven times, and the aforementioned trio of primary ballhandlers combined for just two of those … The Kings bench continues to struggle contributing. The five reserves who entered for Sacramento combined for just five made field goals, 12 points and all had a negative plus/minus rating.