SAN ANTONIO – The red-hot Spurs showed Wednesday night that they can pack a punch – even without leading scorers Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Down by 28 points in the second quarter, the Silver and Black mounted a furious rally in the second half to beat the Sacramento Kings 114-104 at the AT&T Center.
The comeback was the Spurs' largest under Gregg Popovich, who became their coach 18 games into the 1996-97 season. The Spurs were so far behind that they didn't take their first lead until Patty Mills drained a 3-pointer that put them up 95-92 with 6:27 left.
Reserve Manu Ginobili scored a season-high 19 points to lead the Silver and Black, who improved to 50-13 with their ninth victory in a row. They also clinched their 18th consecutive 50-win season, eclipsing their league record. The Los Angeles Lakers are No. 2 on the list with 12-straight 50-win seasons from 1979 to 1990.
Leonard and Aldridge were given the night off by coach Gregg Popovich. Ginobili scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half, when the Spurs outscored the Kings 66-41.
"If I can play that long and be half as good as Manu, I think I'll be OK," Spurs guard Danny Green said.
Ginobili, 39, is in his 15th season with San Antonio.
Green said he's still "amazed" by what Ginobili can do on the court.
"Especially the stuff he does at 39," Green said. "The things he does at his age is very impressive."
Jonathon Simmons started for Leonard and David Lee subbed for Aldridge. Lee matched his season high with 18 points and added 10 rebounds, and Simmons finished with 14 points.
Mills also stepped up in a big way off the bench, scoring 18 points and matching his season high in assists with 10. He hit 6 of 9 shots, including 4 of 6 attempts from long distance. Green scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half, making all five of his shots, including three from the 3-point line.
The Spurs play at Oklahoma City on Thursday and host two-time defending Western Conference champion Golden State on Saturday night. They moved to within 1.5 games of the West-leading Warriors, who slipped to 52-12 after a 99-86 loss to Boston on Wednesday night.
Sacramento (25-39) led 37-15 after one quarter and was up 59-31 with 4:42 left in the first half. The Spurs rallied to trim the Kings' lead to 63-48 at the half. The Silver and Black outscored Sacramento 34-23 to trail by only four, 86-82, going into the fourth quarter. The Kings have lost six in a row.
Mills was asked if he knew how big the Kings' lead got in the first half, when they shot 60 percent overall (15/25) and 50 percent (3/6) from the 3-point line.
"I knew it was a big deficit," Mills said."I didn't know it was 28. There was a moment there in the first half where there was no life and we tried to find some sort of energy. This was a real character test. I thought at halftime we could have just laid down and gotten ready for a big one tomorrow night.
"We crawled back in it and now I think it it just goes to show the character that we have within the group, coming together and making sure we don't get embarrassed in our own building like that. In terms of camaraderie and how well we've come together off the court this season, I thought it was a good example of that in the second half."
Green, who finished with 14 points, was only 2 of 6 and had five points in three quarters before he drained three consecutive 3-pointers in a span of 1:44 in the fourth period. His last trey gave the Silver and Black a 112-102 lead with 37.2 seconds left.
Green was asked if he ever loses confidences when his shot isn't going in.
"You can go 0-for-9 and the next one can be the game-changer or win the game for us," Green said.
The Spurs shot 50 percent (42/84) overall and 48.3 percent (14/29) from the 3-point line. They also moved the ball efficiently after scolring only 15 points in the first quarter, getting 33 assists on their 42 field goals.
"It was a team effort," Popovich said. "I thought David Lee was fantastic. I thought Manu was fantastic. Patty (Mills) joined them and I thought everybody else chipped in and did what they had to do with the 33 assists and getting up into them physically, defensively, after the first quarter."
Sacramento coach Dave Joerger singled out Mills after the game.
"Patty Mills is a heck of a player," he said. "He is a starter on a lot of teams, so he was a tough cover for us."
Forward Tyreke Evans scored 25 points to lead Sacramento, which has lost six in a row. Evans made 9 of 13 shots, including 3 of 4 from the 3-point line. Kosta Koufos (12) and Buddy Hield (11) were the only Kings in double figures.
"It was a good game," Joerger said. "I thought the guys played their tails off. I saw some good things. Hats of to them (Spurs). They played a great game, especially the last three quarters. They made shots, getting to the foul line, and they took care of the basketball after the first quarter."
Here is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Spurs' 114-104 win over the Kings on Wednesday night:
Final: Spurs 114, Kings 104. Manu Ginobili scores a season-high 19 points to lead the Spurs, who improve to 50-13 with their ninth consecutive victory. David Lee matched his season high with 18 points and also finished with 10 rebounds.
Fourth quarter (1:28): Danny Green has hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Silver and Black their biggest lead of the game. He is 4 of 12 from the field.
Fourth quarter (2:53): Spurs 101, Kings 95. Patty Mills gave the Silver and Black their first lead, 95-92, with a 3-pointer with 6:26 left. David Lee has tied his season high with 18 points.
Fourth quarter (6:42): Kings 92, Spurs 92. The Silver and Black are still looking for their first lead.
Fourth quarter (10:01): Kings 88, Spurs 86. David Lee has scored the first four points of the quarter for the Silver and Black. Manu Ginobili leads the Spurs with 17 points.
End of third quarter: Kings 86, Spurs 82. Pau Gasol tied the score at 82 with two free throws before Sacramento scored the last four points of the period.
Third quarter (5:08): Kings 74, Spurs 64. The Silver and Black had four possessions with a chance to cut Sacramento's lead to single digits, but came away empty each time.
Third quarter (7:38): Kings 70, Spurs 57.
Halftime: Kings 63, Spurs 48
First-half notes: Down 37-15 after one quarter, the Silver and Black trailed by 28 points (59-31) with 4:42 left in the half. They cut the deficit to 16 (61-45) on a 3-pointer by Patty Mills with 61 seconds left and had a chance to draw closer, but David Lee missed two free throws. A basket by Kosta Koufos ended an 11-0 Spurs run, but Kyle Anderson nailed a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining to cut the deficit back to 15. The Silver and Black ended the half on a 14-2 run . . . Kyle Anderson led the Spurs with nine points. The Spurs shot 42.9 percent (18/42) overall and 50 percent (6/12) from beyond the arc . . . The Kings shot 52.1 percent (25/48) overall and 50 percent (6/12) from the 3-point line. Tyreke Evans led Sacramento with 13 points. Koufos and Buddy Hield had 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Kings outrebounded the Spurs 26-19.
Second quarter (2:50): Kings 61, Spurs 38. Sacramento is shooting 54.5 percent (24/44) and has nailed 6 of 12 3-pointers.
Second quarter (5:59): Kings 54, Spurs 29.
Second quarter (8:52): Kings 46, Spurs 23. The Spurs look a step slow tonight. It's been a layup line for Sacramento.
End of first quarter: Kings 37, Spurs 15. Sacramento shot 60 percent overall (15/25) and was 3 of 6 from the 3-point line. Tyreke Evans and Kosta Koufos lead the Kings with 13 and 10 points, respectively. The Spurrs shot 26.1 percent overall and (6/23) and were 16.7 percent (1/6) from long distance.
First quarter (3:11): Kings 31, Spurs 15
First quarter (9:10): Kings 11, Spurs 4. With Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge given the night off to rest, Jonathon Simmons and David Lee drew starting nods.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black on cusp of 18th consecutive 50-win season
Sacramento Kings (25-38) vs. Spurs (49-13)
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, AT&T Center
Kings’ last game: Lost to Nuggets 108-96, Monday, Denver
Spurs’ last game: Beat Houston Rockets 112-110 Monday, AT&T Center
Season series: Spurs lead 2-0
Last meeting: Spurs 110, Kings 105, Nov. 16, Sacramento
Kings’ last 10 games: 4-6, lost last five
Spurs’ last 10 games: 9-1, won last eight
Notable: LaMarcus Aldridge (rest) and Kawhi Leonard (rest) are out for Wednesday night's game.
SAN ANTONIO – Fifty-win seasons have become synonymous with the Spurs, whose consistency has made them one of the model franchises of American pro sports.
While Spurs fans have been abuzz about Kawhi Leonard and his chances of winning the NBA’s MVP award, the team has steadily improved throughout the season.
A victory against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night would give the Silver and Black their 18th consecutive 50-win season and eclipse their NBA-record streak for the fourth time.
The Los Angeles Lakers are second on the list, recording 12 seasons with at least 50 victories from 1979 to 1990.
The Spurs have won at least 50 games every season except one since 1997-98, Tim Duncan’s rookie year. They went 37-13 in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season and went on to win their first of five league championships. They started their streak of 50-win seasons in 1999-2000.
Players have come and gone, including icons David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but the Spurs keep rolling along. They were expected to drop off some this season without Duncan, who retired last July, but they own the league’s second-best record (49-13) with 20 games left on their schedule.
“That’s a good team over there,” Houston forward Trevor Ariza said Monday night, after the Spurs came back from 16 down to edge the Rockets 112-110 at the AT&T Center. “That’s a team that knows how to win, a team that’s been in situations before.”
The victory over Houston was eighth in a row for the Spurs and followed overtime wins against New Orleans and Minnesota last Friday and Saturday. They edged Indiana by one last Wednesday.
Will the four consecutive nail-biters help the Silver and Black as they move forward?
“I think it’s great for us,” guard Danny Green said after the Houston game. “We’re learning, we’re building. Mentally, we’re getting more focused and more locked in. Learning the rotations, too. Tonight was definitely good prep for the future.”
The NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, Leonard has stepped up his offensive game by leaps and bounds this season. He set a torrid pace in the past month, scoring at least 31 points in eight of the Spurs’ 11 games.
Leonard has scored more than 30 points in his last four games, including 39 in the scintillating win over the Rockets. He took over on both ends of the court in the game’s final minute, nailing a 3-pointer that put the Spurs up 110-108 with 25.4 seconds left. He also blocked a layup by James Harden on the Rockets’ next possession.
Leonard has averaged 33.8 points in his last four games. For the season, he’s averaged 26.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals.
Down by seven at halftime, the Spurs outscored the Rockets 34-28 in the third quarter to trail by one going into the final period.
Leonard carried the Silver and Black in the quarter, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the last five minutes. He was 4 of 6 from the field in the period, including 2 of 2 from the 3-point line, and went 7 for 7 at the free-throw line.
When asked about the way he’s taken over games at crunch time, Leonard said it’s about consistency until the end of the game.
“It’s just a matter of repetition and being able to play in games, being able to take those shots in the fourth quarter,” Leonard said, “It’s not always pretty every time I am being aggressive, but tonight I made shots to help us win."
We asked him if he realized that he’s going to be mentioned in chatter about the MVP race when he makes plays like he did at the end of Monday night’s game.
“No, not at all,” Leonard said. “I don’t know how they pick or choose it. I’m just playing basketball, trying to make my team the best team right now, coming down this last stretch.”
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said he was “kind of in shock” after Leonard drained his killer 3-pointer against the Rockets.
“Not because he hasn’t done it, because he already has made quite a few of those,” Ginobili said. “But the whole situation, the way he played in the fourth quarter. That shot was crazy because it was contested. It was off the dribble and a very tough shot to make.
“And then that block, with Harden going full speed, it’s very hard to do. You’ve got to be very gifted, and he is. So I was happily surprised.”
Next up for the Spurs after Wednesday’s game: vs. Oklahoma City, 7 p.m., Thursday, OKC
Next Spurs home game: vs. Golden State, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
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