Grades: San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings – Game #78
In one of the most shocking outcomes of the season, the San Antonio Spurs went out on the road and defeated the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. The Kings entered the game as the third seed in the Western Conference, while the Spurs entered with a six-game losing streak. In the end, San Antonio was celebrating a 142-134 overtime victory while the fans in Sacramento sat in stunned silence.
Much like their previous game against the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs played better than expected through three quarters. They came out aggressive on both ends and had the Kings on their heels. Heading into the fourth period, the Spurs had a 96-92 advantage.
In the final period, everyone was waiting for the Kings to make their run. Sacramento has played well in fourth quarters this year and in clutch situations. But instead of folding, the Spurs stiffened and traded big plays. After the Kings missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, the game went into overtime.
In the extra sessions, San Antonio’s offense caught on fire. They hit their first six shots from the field and all seven of their free throws. The Kings ended up getting buried by the scoring onslaught.
All in all, it was a really surprising win that the good guys should be proud about. They didn’t have Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell or Jeremy Sochan — and Zach Collins fouled out in the fourth quarter. Despite those notable absences, San Antonio prevailed due to a handful of players stepping up and playing great. The Spurs definitely deserved the W and this game will go down as one of the two or three brightest spots of the season.
Spurs at Kings – Final Grades
Jones finished with his first triple-double of his career. He totaled 17 points, 11 assists and ten rebounds. His production wasn’t a fluke; Jones was legitimately everywhere. Defensively, he was locked in from the opening tip and played a rugged, ever-hustling style on that end. Offensively, he ran the offense to perfection and his mistakes were few and far between. Looking more spry and more athletic than we’ve seen in more than a month, Jones was a menace when attacking the rim. San Antonio’s starting point guard was inarguably the head of the snake and he was who the team relied on to keep the ship steady.
It was far from the cleanest game for Collins but he earned his wages on Sunday night. He spent much of the evening going mano a mano against All-Star Domantas Sabonis and San Antonio’s starting center more than held his own. I really liked his effort on defense and how hard he ran the court in transition. Offensively, Collins wasn’t shy about shooting or attempting difficult passes. While he ended up with three turnovers and ultimately fouled out in regulation after only 23 minutes, his effort and courageousness were leading reasons why the Spurs were in this ballgame.
Branham had another silky smooth offensive showing. While he hit only 1-of-5 three-pointers, he was 6-of-7 from two-point range thanks to masterful movement without the ball, skillful cuts to the hoop and patient shot-making under pressure. The rookie also passed the rock well. Branham had a couple of costly mistakes on offense and his defense was wobbly at times — but, net-net, he did really well. The Spurs wouldn’t have won without him playing well.
Bates-Diop didn’t have the flashiest outing but his efficiency was key. Defensively, he stayed on his toes and was reliably in the right spots at the right time. On the other side of the court, Bates-Diop had no turnovers and only one missed shot of any kind in 32 minutes. In tight situations, he displayed veteran moxie that helped keep his younger teammates cool.
The one member of the starting five who didn’t play well was Devonte’ Graham. He never got anything going offensively in any aspect. He wasn’t hitting threes, he wasn’t getting to the rim, he wasn’t actively playmaking, etc. Defensively, I liked Graham’s energy at times but he didn’t do anything special on that end.
Wow. This was unquestionably the best game of the season for Barlow. He was outstanding. Defensively, he was blocking and altering shots by the bushel, getting his hands grimy, hustling in transition, disrupting passing lanes and hitting the boards. Offensively, Barlow looked confident taking jumpers, rolled to the rim with purpose, was relentless on the glass and hit two big free throws to help send the game to overtime. Perhaps more surprising than any that was the 19-year-old rookie big man’s passing. He read the defense well and made the right passes again and again. Barlow has the physical tools to be an NBA player. Now it’s beginning to look like he also has the skill and the feel for the game that is also necessary. Good stuff.
San Antonio’s leading scorer was McDermott with 30 points. And it was 30 loud points. The Kings were taking shortcuts on defense and were lackadaisical when rotating — and McDermott took advantage of that. He expertly moved to the open spots and tortured Sacramento down the stretch. After scoring 13 of the Spurs’ 27 points in the fourth quarter, McDermott had nine of San Antonio’s 19 points in overtime. His play in the fourth quarter and in overtime was as demonstrative as I’ve ever seen him. McDermott couldn’t have done much more than he did when it came to stepping up during winning time.
Champagnie had the first half of his dreams. He got going by moving smartly without the ball and getting shots in the paint. After that, Champagnie started firing away from three-point territory. When the smoke cleared, he had 22 points in only 12 first half minutes. It was a marvelous offensive display that illustrated Champagnie’s potential on that end. He has a great looking stroke and enough length and athleticism to be a threat when going to the rim. Champagnie also appears to have a high basketball IQ. While the rookie didn’t do much after halftime, Champagnie’s first half for the ages provided the Spurs the production they needed to stay competitive.
With Barlow flourishing as the backup center, Mamukelashvili only ended up playing 17 minutes. Despite the relatively limited playing time, I thought he did well again. He efforted to the nth degree on both ends and played a brainy brand of basketball.
Pandemonium was back on the menu for Wesley. In 16 minutes, he was 2-for-7 from the field and notched four turnovers and two fouls. And, truthfully, he was even more wild than those numbers suggest. Pop had to call timeouts a couple times just to try to calm down his rookie. I liked some of Wesley’s defensive possessions and I liked how he seemed to remain confident even when the going got tough — but, man, did the going get tough.
Langford didn’t look healthy. He wasn’t moving well and his flexibility was limited. In eight minutes, his only numbers of note were two missed shots and two turnovers.
I mean, it’s tough to grade Pop after this win. On one hand, he guided his troops to a memorable road victory against long odds. The smiles on everyone’s faces at the end of the game were beaming to the heavens in Sacramento. There’s definitely value in that. On the other hand, moving a win ahead of the Houston Rockets could hurt the Spurs when the lottery balls start bouncing. Leaning on a veteran like McDermott to get a late season win is an iffy decision looking at the big picture. Then again, Pop also got amazing performances from Barlow and Champagnie, so it’s not like he went for the win while ignoring the youngsters and the up-and-comers.