Spurs beat Kings to end two-game slide
SAN ANTONIO -- Despite having one of the NBA's erstwhile MVP candidates in Kawhi Leonard, the San Antonio Spurs are at their best when they get balanced scoring and meaningful contributions from up and down their roster.
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Such was the case on Sunday as Pau Gasol scored 22 points off the bench and LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points in 21 minutes to help push the Spurs to an easy 118-102 win over the Sacramento Kings at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs snapped a two-game losing streak, and they still haven't lost three contests in a row this season. They also swept the four-game season series from Sacramento.
Tony Parker scored 16 points for San Antonio (53-16), which moved to within two games of idle Golden State for the best record in the NBA.
Leonard hit for 12 points for the Spurs, his season-low scoring output as he missed nine of his 12 shots from the floor. He sat out the second half of the third quarter and all of the final period.
David Lee scored 11 points for San Antonio. Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons had 10 points each as seven Spurs players scored in double figures and all 13 players who took the floor for San Antonio scored.
"We came back after a couple of losses pretty well and did a good job tonight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We didn't turn it over. We moved the ball well. We were really aggressive on both ends of the court."
Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein scored 18 points apiece to lead the Kings (27-43). Garrett Temple scored for 15 points, Skal Labissiere tallied 10 points and Georgios Papagiannis pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for Sacramento, which lost its second straight game.
Sacramento roared to a 14-2 lead in the first five minutes as Hield had seven quick points and Temple added five. But the Spurs answered back via an 11-2 run capped by a 3-pointer by Mills to get back to within 16-13.
The Kings held a 27-21 advantage at the end of the first quarter by outshooting San Antonio 54.5 percent to 28 percent and hitting all three of their 3-point attempts.
The Spurs ran past Sacramento into the lead on the third of three Leonard free throws at the 7:18 mark of the second quarter and kept pouring it on, building as much as a 10-point advantage before assuming a 58-49 lead at halftime.
"It was just a matter of us turning it on and being a little more aggressive defensively and playing with more flow," Gasol said. "Late in the first quarter, we found it. Ball movement is always the key because once we do that it creates a certain energy out there and helps us get everybody involved. When you're open and get the ball, it's a totally different game."
Parker had 12 points in the half, all in the second quarter on 6-of-7 shooting, and Leonard added 10 for the Spurs. After its horrendous shooting start, San Antonio actually outshot Sacramento 45.7 percent to 45.5 percent in the half while also outrebounding the Kings 26-21 and committing just one turnover.
Temple paced the Kings with 11 points (via a 3-for-3 showing on his 3-pointers).
When asked about how the game turned, Hield's answer was matter-of-fact.
"They're the Spurs and they are tough to beat at home," Hield said. "They find a way to grind it out and win. The shots they had in the first quarter just didn't fall, but they did later on. We can learn from playing against (the Spurs) -- they have the continuity and understand the game. I'm watching those guys and trying to pick things up that I can use as I get more experienced."
San Antonio kept its collective foot on the pedal in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 27 points with 1:13 to play in the period and enjoying a 99-74 advantage heading to the final quarter. That large margin sent both teams' starters to the bench for the whole fourth quarter.
"San Antonio comes at you in waves and waves and they did a great job," Kings coach Dave Joerger said. "They are just bigger and more experienced. They threw us around, got to the rim and got to the foul line. They really set the tone of where we could catch the ball. It was a good learning experience for our younger guys and we just have to keep getting better."
NOTES: The Kings played without F Rudy Gay (torn left Achillies), G Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) and G Tyreke Evans (sore left ankle), while both G Manu Ginobili (rest) or G Dejounte Murray (hamstring) did not suit up for San Antonio. ... Sacramento has lost 10 games in a row to the Spurs and nine straight contests in San Antonio. ... Former Spurs F/C Tim Duncan recorded four 20-point, 20-rebound games against Sacramento, more than any other opponent. ... The Spurs came from 28 points down to beat Sacramento 114-104 on March 8, the largest come-from-behind victory for San Antonio in coach Gregg Popovich's 21-year tenure with the Spurs and the largest blown loss for the Kings this season. ... Next up for the Kings is Wednesday's home contest with Milwaukee while the Spurs hit the road for a game Tuesday in Minnesota.