San Antonio Spurs 108, Sacramento Kings 102: Tony Parker returns to work
The San Antonio Spurs entered Tuesday night’s 108-102 win over the Sacramento Kings with a full roster that was both healthy and (presumably) well-rested. While both teams struggled with their rhythm in one way or another — the Spurs committed 17 turnovers and the Kings shot less than 38 percent from the field — they continued the trends that we saw pre-All-Star break.
Tony Parker continues his quest to finish third in the MVP race (c’mon, no one’s finishing ahead of LeBron or Durant), putting up 30 points and 11 assists on the night. Parker continued to balance his point guard duties with regards to getting his teammates involved, while recognizing when to attack and force the issue offensively. Parker shot 10-of-20 from the field which, while not bad, could’ve been a result of not getting some calls that he normally does.
But when the Spurs needed baskets to prevent the Kings from taking the lead, it was always Parker who was going to make the play. I loathe the term “closer” in basketball situations, so I’ll say that Parker was the go-to guy down the stretch. Over the last two seasons, I’d venture to guess, he’s becoming one of the better guys in the league in those situations.
The gradual rise of Kawhi Leonard also resumed its mission on Tuesday night. Leonard scored 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting. It wasn’t the most efficient night from the floor for Leonard, but the second year forward forced six foul shots and made the sort of intangible plays that help negate poor shooting percentages. One one play in the second half, Leonard used his unusually long arms to save a ball going out of bounds along the baseline right to Tim Duncan under the basket, who was able to draw a shooting foul.
Even with Manu Ginobili back in the rotation and playing well (12 points, seven rebounds), Leonard is making his case for membership in the Spurs’ big three. It’s like that scene in Drumline where Nick Cannon has to challenge someone to take their spot on the varsity (or whatever it’s called) [Andrew's note: Actually it wasn't Nick Cannon's character, it was another one. Check the comments below.]. Leonard’s working up the gusto right now to take on Ginobili.
…I can’t believe I just made a Drumline reference.
Working in the idea of threes, Tim Duncan shot just 3-for-8 from the field against Sacramento, totaling only nine points. The Spurs needed scoring from somewhere else to beat the Kings. Enter Danny Green. Icy Hot was the latter on Tuesday night, hitting 8-of-11 from the field, 5-of-8 from 3, en route to scoring 21 points.
For someone who had nothing going on this weekend other than enjoying the nightlife in Houston, Green was one of the sharpest Spurs in the first game back. Green made all the plays he made before the break, not missing a beat.
For the Spurs, it was a return to business as usual in beating the Kings. This is about the time Gregg Popovich likes to figure out his rotation and dial in the minutes. They were cutting it close, but he’s got a full rotation to work with now and figure out who should be playing when and where, not the least of which is figuring out the backup point guard, which continues to be a question mark for the Spurs and was one of their forgotten weaknesses against the Thunder last season.