SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio returned the favor to the Kings Wednesday, building a 23-point lead early in the second half and holding on for the blowout win 120-106.
They scored 69 points in the first half and started the second half 9-10 from the floor, and when they went cold with just three baskets in almost a quarter of game time, it barely mattered because the lead was so big, they got to the line, and the defense held.
DeMar DeRozan led the way with 26 points, and he had 7 assists all in the first quarter. All other Spurs starters scored 11 points or more, so did Patty Mills and Rudy Gay off the bench, and Drew Eubanks played key minutes down the stretch.
Gorgui Dieng made his much-anticipated debut for the Spurs, and he moved his feet really well defensively, looking like a natural fit in his first six minutes.
Unfortunately he also sprained his right shoulder, apparently on his first roll to the basket for San Antonio. The Spurs announced at halftime that he would not return to the game.
Coach Gregg Popovich was pleased about the team's effort and aggression, calling it a night and day difference from the 132-115 drubbing they took at the hands of this same team two nights before.
DeRozan mentioned the aggression as a key factor as well, and also spoke about the teamwork that clicked in this game. San Antonio had 24 assists as a team, and each individual player dominated a small stretch of the game doing whatever it is they're best at.
"Everybody doing their part, that's when we're at our best, it's unstoppable," he said.
San Antonio scored 69 first half points and hit 9-10 to start the third quarter, putting them up 88-67. Then Buddy Hield hit three triples in a row, and after that the Spurs managed just three made baskets from the floor from about four minutes left in the third to about four minutes left in the fourth.
Not an ideal turn of events, one that would prove fatal to many teams, including this one depending on the night. This was not that night, though, as all that only helped the Kings whittle their deficit down to 16.
The Spurs survived by making 14 free throws in that stretch, and holding the Kings to just 23 points in what amounts to a quarter of play.
"We're playing great teams with great players that, they're going to make a run at some point, so to be able to weather a storm when you're up by however much is a lot easier than being down by 18 like we were the other night right? That takes a whole lot of energy out of you just to get it back to even," said Patty Mills.
"Those start of the games, the start of the second halves are really important for us to be able to make sure that we get off on the right foot," he said. "Again, talking about stringing more of the 48 minutes together and being able to deliver the first blow... deliver the first punch and really follow that up is important, especially at the beginning of the game and third quarter."
The Spurs were in firm control up 110-93 with 5:40 left in the game when Jakob Poeltl came back for Drew Eubanks, who played well and more than expected after the first-quarter injury to his presumed replacement in the rotation in Dieng.
With 5:39 left in the game, they fouled Poeltl intentionally and he hit 1-2. A few seconds later they did it again, and this time he air-balled both. Pop had somebody foul intentionally just to get Poeltl out of the game for Eubanks after that.
When asked if the free throw shooting concerned him, Popovich answered bluntly.
"Well you watched the game, we took him out, so obviously we thought it was a problem," he said.
When asked about what growth he's seen from the big man in that area, his answer was so blunt it could be considered harsh.
"There's no improvement, he's been like that since the day he got here. He works hard all the time," he said.
Harsh and blunt, but also fair. He's shooting 38% from the stripe this year, bad even for him as a career 50% guy.
Patty looked at it as a glass half full, as he always seems to do. Poeltl did have 12 points and 14 boards after all, anchoring a stout defense and doing a million little things that won't show up in a box score.
"He's doing so many more valuable things for us than making free throws that it does not even matter," Mills said. "He's proven how valuable he can be each and every game, whether it's screening, whether it's rolling, whether it's on the ball, whether it's deflecting shots, blocks, all these types of things, he's becoming one of those bigs that's just all over the place, and or our team, what we have right now, it's exactly what we need. He's starting to feel it out and be very impactful in every game. If he makes a free throw every now and again, we'll take it."
It's the same Hack a Shaq strategy Coach Pop used on another center years ago, just Hack a Jak. The other team can take your whole offense out of rhythm if you're in the bonus and they can target the one guy on the floor who can't cash in from the charity stripe.
The solution for the rest of the year should be Dieng when he truly begins playing with this team, as he's 6'11" with a mythical 7'4" wingspan, plus he's hitting over 88% from the line as he threatens an even more mythical 50-50-90 shooting split.
Even after spraining his shoulder, he still moved super fluidly on defense. DeRozan is excited to work with him once he gets healthy and gets into the fold, which hopefully won't take too long.
"It's definitely gonna be fun, his capability on both ends is definitely gonna help us a lot. It sucks that first day on the job he got hurt," he said. "Give him a couple more days to really understand what we run, how we play, so the next time he gets out there, he'll be a lot more comfortable."
Patty Mills used a veteran move to get three free throws hitting them all to put the Spurs up 100-84 with just over 10 minutes to play. San Antonio missed eight shots in a row, but Derrick White added a few more free throws and a floater to keep the lead at 15.
They built the lead to 17 with free throws for Eubanks, which they needed after getting just one bucket in the first five minutes of the fourth. They shot 1-10 to start the fourth after starting 9-10 to start the third.
With over 5 minutes left, the Kings began intentionally fouling Jakob Poeltl, playing the percentages that he'd miss enough free throws, and he air-balled two in a row.
This would have been a great time for newly-acquired stretch 5 Gorgui Dieng, but he left a few minutes into his debut with a sprained shoulder. Drew Eubanks came back in instead.
Dejounte Murray got to the line, then DeMar DeRozan hit another mid-range j. Murray caught it open at the arc, drove in, and slipped a slick feed to Eubanks for a hang-time dunk with some extra juice on it.
DeRozan hit another turnaround jumper, giving him 26 points and giving the Spurs an 18-point advantage with three minutes left. Keldon tossed a lob to Dejounte to put a disrespectful cherry on top, but it missed in a way that sounded like the universe saying to take it back just a notch. Pop called his starters back and spent garbage time on development.
DeMar DeRozan hit four mid-range jumpers in a row, in an unreal zone. Derrick White added to his growing three-point total, Keldon Johnson scored a few at the rim, and Dejounte Murray knocked down a shot and a circus layup backwards in traffic.
San Antonio shot 9-10 to start the half blazing hot, building their lead out to 23.
They went cold, though, then the Kings went on a run of their own to cut it back to a dozen behind Buddy Hield, who had 14 in the quarter. Rudy Gay calmed things down, getting to the line for three free throws.
San Antonio held a 97-82 lead heading to the fourth.
Sacramento quickly erased a six-point deficit, tying the game at 35.
Rudy Gay kept up his hot scoring with a contested layup and his third triple of the first half. He missed a heat-check jumper, then came skying in to put a missed three from Patty Mills where it belonged.
The next time Mills shot from deep, he didn't miss. The one after that was a tougher setup, and just as pure. Mills then found Poeltl for a rolling layup, then ripped a steal and flipped it behind his back perfectly to Derrick White, who dunked it once again for San Antonio.
White ran a methodical pick and roll, then pulled up from the elbow and swished it. Jakob Poeltl scored a few more tough rollers inside, and DeMar took it to the rack with force a few more times. The Kings called timeout down 65-51 with 1:53 left in the half, going over two minutes without a point.
Sacramento finally ended that stretch, but DeRozan answered on the drive once again. The Spurs led 69-53 at halftime.
At halftime, the Spurs announced that newly-acquired Gorgui Dieng sprained his right shoulder and would not return to the game. He appeared to injure it the first time he touched the ball for his new team.
San Antonio didn't have a crisp start to the game, as they went the first two minutes without a bucket before Derrick White hit a three on a feed from DeMar DeRozan. That isn't Dejounte Murray's specialty, but he did the same.
Keldon Johnson drove, spun, and dished it down to Jakob Poeltl in the dunker spot. DeRozan got his third assist feeding Johnson in transition.
Dejounte got running in transition without the ball, and Derrick found him for a tomahawk poster dunk.
Johnson crammed a dunk on a pass from Murray, then a three from DeMar. DeRozan then dropped his fifth dime of the first quarter to Patty Mills for another triple.
DeRozan hit a mid-range stepback, then free throws. Patty made an impressive backcourt save, then DeRozan found Gay for a triple. He got free throws, then found Gay for another three to put the Spurs up eight.
Gorgui Dieng made his debut, and immediately got whacked down low by former Spur Chimezie Metu. He hit the first free throw, but missed the second.
DeRozan spun in for a ferocious slam, then got T'd up for a delay of game.
San Antonio led 33-27 behind 6 points and 7 assists from DeMar.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Sacramento Kings
When, where: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., San Antonio
All-time series record: Spurs lead 122-60
Last season: Spurs won series 2-1
Season series: Kings lead 1-0
Last meeting: Kings won 132-115, March 29, 2021
Kings' last game: Won vs. Spurs, 132-115
Spurs' last game: Lost vs. Kings, 132-115
Kings' last 10 games/streak: 7-3, won 5
Spurs' last 10 games/streak: 4-6, lost 1
Kings' injury/inactive report: Jahmi'us Ramsey, OUT (hamstring); Hassan Whiteside, OUT (knee); Marvin Bagley, OUT (hand).
Spurs' injury/inactive report: Lonnie Walker IV, OUT, (wrist); Keita Bates-Diop, OUT (hamstring).
The Gorgui Dieng era is set to begin in San Antonio on Wednesday night, as the backup center will make his Spurs debut in a rematch against the Kings.
When asked how they'll get him up to speed and what the initial expectations are with a new group, Pop said that the team is working with him on terminology and play scripting to bring him into the system.
"Gorgui's been around, right? He's played a lot of basketball. It's the NBA, nothing's too secret, he's pretty much seen it all," he said.
They'll need his help on defense after the Spurs gave up 132 in the loss on Monday to a Kings team that has now won five in a row, hitting 18-36 from deep in the first game in San Antonio.
Spurs fall to Kings 132-115 after Sacramento shoots the lights out
Sacramento came out of the gate shooting the lights out at the AT&T Center, and the Spurs couldn't slow them down as the Kings won their fifth in a row, 132-115.
San Antonio allowed 18-36 shooting from deep and went down by as many as 19 in the third quarter. They cut the deficit to three in the fourth, but the game ran away from them at that point.