AT&T CENTER – “When he (Rudy Gay), Demarcus (Cousins), and Isaiah (Thomas) play as well as they did the other night, they give us a three-headed monster if you will,” said Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone, in referring to the Kings’ recent win over the Miami Heat, prior to tip-off in San Antonio against the Spurs.
The 3-Headed Monster showed up in San Antonio Sunday as the three players combined for 80 points but it was Manu Ginobili’s season-high 28 points and the Spurs’ widespread attack that helped San Antonio comeback from a 9-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Kings 112-104.
The Spurs had a steady lead in the first half as Ginobili and Boris Diaw helped San Antonio create a one-time 15-point lead on Sacramento. Cousins kept the Kings out of ‘blow-out’ range with 14 points in the first half as the Spurs took a 57-49 lead into the half.
In the third quarter, however, this happened:
The Spurs’ starters had trouble once again on the offensive end and the whole team as a whole gave up 38 points in the quarter, just after giving up 40 to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets in recent games. Thomas scored 15 points in the third, while Gay also provided 12 points for Sacramento in the quarter. Outside of Ginobili (7 points), none of the Spurs’ players could find a rhythm in the third. San Antonio would go into the final quarter down 87-81.
Early in the fourth it looked like an upset was looming as the Kings took an early 9-point lead. However, Ginobili and Tony Parker wouldn’t let the upset happen as they each scored 10 points in the final quarter. In the final three minutes when the game was tied at 102, Parker (7 points) and Duncan (3 points) helped the Spurs finish the game with a 10-2 run.
The Spurs found their identity in the fourth as they scored 31 points in the quarter on 50% shooting. Meanwhile, they held the Kings to 33% shooting in the final quarter and forced Sacramento into 5 turnovers. Take a look at the Kings’ shot chart in the fourth as opposed to the third:
Manu Ginobili: Where would the Spurs be without Ginobili this season? He continued his remarkable month of December with 28 points (a season high), three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 30:15 minutes.
“He’s, as I’ve said many times before, stronger this year than he has been in several years from both the rest and the weightlifting he did all summer,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich of Ginobili. “He had 2 days of rest before tonight’s game and it showed. His legs were great. He was very energetic.”
Tony Parker: After scoring 8 points in the first half, Parker got himself going with 14 points in the second half. Parker also had 7 assists in the win but did have to play 35 minutes.
Tim Duncan: Though he didn’t have the best shooting night (17 points on 8-of-17 shooting) Duncan was responsible for slowing down Cousins on the defensive end down the stretch, something a box score won’t catch. Duncan also had another double-double with 13 rebounds, while he also blocked two shots.
Boris Diaw: Scoring wise, Diaw made most of his damage in the first half with 10 of his 14 points. He had another “Diaw” stat line with 7 assists and 6 rebounds off the bench in 25 minutes. Jason Thompson scored 7 points on 3-of-8 shooting, Diaw’s defense was a part of that.
Tiago Splitter: Splitter defended Cousins for the majority of the night but did put together a solid all-around game with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 block in under 28 minutes.
The Spurs’ Bench: In routine fashion, the Spurs’ bench outscored the Kings’ bench 53-12. The bench was also responsible for 14 of the teams 29 assists. The bench scores so efficiently, they assisted on 78% of their made baskets while the starters assisted on just 58% of their made baskets.
Sacramento’s 3-Headed Monster: Cousins, Gay, and Thomas combined for 80 of Sacramento’s 104 points. Cousins finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Thomas finished with 27 points and 9 assists, while Gay finished with 24 points and 9 rebounds.
“It is a talented group and they are playing unselfishly,” said Popovich of the Kings. “They play hard, and they are kind of new.”
· Season-low in turnovers: The Spurs set a season low with just 4 turnovers that resulted in only 8 King points.
· Another awful defensive quarter: As mentioned above, the Spurs gave up 38 points in the third quarter.
“Every team does that,” said Popovich of the third quarter. “If we want to be the last team standing obviously we can’t have that kind of variation in quarters, but at some point in the season it happens to everybody.”
· Belinelli struggles once more as starter: Marco Belinelli’s struggles with starting unit continued as he finished with 4 points on 2-of-11 shooting. The starting unit as a whole has had its troubles finding its flow before Ginobili and Diaw enter the game. Even Kawhi Leonard only finished with 5 points on 2-of-6 shooting.
Where they stand: With the win, the Spurs improved to 24-7 on the season. They moved to 11-4 at home, they are 17-0 against teams that are .500 or below, and 14-6 against the Western Conference. They hold the 4th highest Net Rating in the NBA at +7.7. They’re 5th in offensive rating at 106.5 points per 100 possessions, and their defense ranks 5th in the league at 98.8 points per 100 possessions.
Up Next: The Spurs will host the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, New Year’s Eve in the AT&T Center.