Kings bring energy to San Antonio but don’t leave with ‘W’
SAN ANTONIO – Manu Ginobili and the San Antonio Spurs were surprised by the visiting Sacramento Kings’ pep.
Richard Jefferson ended his recent slump with 23 points, including a dunk to cap a 14-point Spurs run at the end of the first half, and San Antonio ended a three-game losing streak with a 118-106 victory over Sacramento.
“A team that has come from New Orleans last night should have been more tired than us, but they ran more,” said Ginobili, who had 11 fourth-quarter points in his fifth game back after being sidelined five games with a strained groin.
Tony Parker had 18 points and 11 assists for the Spurs, who beat Sacramento for the second time this season and seventh consecutive overall. Ginobili added 20 points, including five in a key late-game run.
Reserve forward Omri Casspi scored 20 points to lead the Kings, who lost their fourth in a row and were playing their second game in two nights on the road.
“(Big plays) just happened a couple of times late in the game,” Ginobili said. “It made me feel really good, and it’s something that’s going to happen more often, hopefully.”
Jefferson, a heralded offseason acquisition in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, came in averaging 12.8 points per game, and just 7.8 in the Spurs’ previous five games. But he set the tone with a fast-break dunk off an assist from Parker on the Spurs’ first possession.
“We got some buckets in transition and made some plays and for the most part just did things with confidence,” Jefferson said. “I’d like to believe that the more I play, the more used to the offense I’m going to get.”
Sacramento erased an early 10-point second-period deficit and took its first lead at 44-43 on Spencer Hawes’ three-point play with 6:37 left in the half. The Kings extended their lead to 54-49 on a fast-break layup by former Spur Beno Udrih before San Antonio scored the final 14 points of the half.
“(The Spurs are) struggling a little bit, but I believe they’ll get out it,” said Udrih, who finished with 15 points. “We’ll get out of it, too. Start getting better at the end of games; in the fourth quarter, finish the game. Take care of the ball a little better and be more patient. I think the Spurs are a team that we can really learn that from.”
Jefferson capped the Spurs’ run and an 18-point first half by rebounding a blocked shot by Antonio McDyess, driving the length of the court and firing down a dunk with four seconds left in the second period.
The Spurs again built double-digit leads early and late in the third quarter, but could not shake the Kings. Udrih and rookie Tyreke Evans combined for 20 points in the period to help keep Sacramento close, and Evans’ driving layup at the buzzer closed the Kings’ deficit to 89-82 entering the final period.
Jefferson opened the fourth quarter by blocking Casspi’s attempt at a layup, then nailing a 3-pointer on the other end.
But with Parker and Tim Duncan resting on the Spurs’ bench, the Kings continued to hang around, narrowing the San Antonio lead to 101-96 on Casspi’s 3-pointer with 6:08 remaining in regulation. Parker and Duncan came back in, but Duncan’s foul sent Jason Thompson to the line, and Thompson’s two free throws made it 101-98 to cap a 12-2 Kings run.
That was the last time Sacramento would threaten. Parker scored baskets on consecutive Spurs possessions to give San Antonio some breathing room, and Ginobili put it away with back-to-back drives, including a dunk with 1:57 left that followed a three-point play.
“We can’t handle the Parker-Duncan pick-and-roll for one thing; don’t know too many people that can,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “They know when to run; they run it to perfection. Their shooters – 8 for 9 on 3s? Come on – that’s hard to do that in a gym by yourself. They were phenomenal tonight.”
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