West coast trip proving to be ugly, but successful for Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs walked out of Sleep Train Arena Friday night with their league leading 12th win in a row and did so by beating the Sacramento Kings by 20 points. It was the most deceiving final score ever. Winning by 20 generally implies the victorious team played really well but that was not the case Saturday night.
I say the Spurs didn’t play really well because we didn’t get the humming offense we’ve been used to over the last month. Only 18 assists, below their season average of 25 and well below the high 20′s and low 30′s we’ve grown used to seeing over the last few weeks. The reason for the low assist number was their inability to hit open 3-point shots (they went 5/25). Good example of how last night felt. I attended the game as a spectator and while I was never nervous about anything, there was several times the ball would get swung around for a back breaking wide open three. I am not an obnoxious fan, especially when I’m cheering for the opposing team, but the one thing I will do is throw up the three-point sign and stand up and clap loudly when the Spurs hit the back breaking three. That didn’t happen last night. There were several times I had the three sign ready, butt cheeks came out of seat slightly, the crowd would gasp because they could see the shot coming, and then someone would miss. Such a let down. But again, I was never nervous about last night’s outcome. That’s kind of how last night went.
The Kings defense is terrible, so when the Spurs really needed a basket they’d get it and Marco Belinelli really poured it on in the fourth quarter to keep the game out of reach. But the defense was the key to Friday night’s win. The Spurs held the Kings to 40 percent shooting overall and even more impressively, limited Sacramento to 14 points in the second quarter. The Kings didn’t score more than 23 points in any quarter. So things went well on that end.
Next up for the Spurs is a Saturday night match up in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors. Coach Gregg Popovich hasn’t announced if anyone is going to sit out, but wouldn’t surprise me to Duncan sit after playing 34 minutes against the Kings. Golden State will be without Andre Iguodala, which makes them a below average team on defense, so the Spurs should get plenty of open looks. tip-off for that game is 9:30 p.m. and it’s on Fox Sports Southwest.
-Watching Kawhi Leonard this season compared to last season is a completely different experience. He’ll do a little bit of freelancing on offense, he’s very quick to take an open shot, which happened in the corner last year, but he just looks like such a more willing scorer. His defense was great as well, holding Rudy Gay, who has become very efficient in a Kings uniform, to 4-14 shooting.
-Weird shooting night for Tim Duncan, who went 3-12 overall. He couldn’t get anything to fall in the paint, but hit all three of his jump shots, which is kind of the opposite of how this season has gone. He did lead the team with six assists though.
-Tiago Splitter has scored in double figures in four of his last five games. To me, this signals more about him and Duncan finding that groove they had as a tandem more then anything. If you watched last night, you could just each guy knew where the other was going to be at all times. As Matt Tynan pointed out, this is as good a stretch we’ve seen from the big man during his time in San Antonio.
-Again, we don’t know if anyone is sitting tonight, but I wouldn’t be shocked if everyone played at least a few minutes and dudes got some rest on Monday when the Philadelphia 76ers are in town. They have lost 23 in a row after all.