by Charlie O. Mallonee
George Karl has talked all season about the tendency of his Sacramento Kings (25-36) to fall into “black holes” and lose games because of it. A black hole to Karl is a loss of momentum that continues for seven to eight possessions allowing the opponents to go on a scoring run that the Kings ultimately cannot overcome.
The Kings played well in the first half against the Spurs (53-9) trailing by just three points at halftime, 57-54. As the third quarter began, Sacramento fell into a proverbial “black hole” and allowed San Antonio to go on a 12-0 run led by Kawhi Leonard’s nine points in the opening minutes of the period. The Spurs would outscore the Kings 29-13 in the third and would go on to win the game 104-94.
As the game began, it appeared the Kings had drawn the lucky straw. Spurs head coach Greg Popovich had decided to rest Tim Duncan and Danny Green. A third San Antonio starter – LaMarcus Aldridge – was unable to answer the bell due to a migraine headache. A situation that should have been advantage Kings was negated by the outstanding play of Leonard and Manu Ginobili who returned to the team after missing 12 games due to surgery.
Sacramento was led by DeMarcus Cousins who scored 31 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Cousins shot 50.0-percent (10-for-20) from the floor and hit on 10 of 15 free throw attempts.
Quincy Acy had a monster game starting at forward for the Kings. Acy – who is known more for his defense that his offense – scored 16 points for his team. Acy was a perfect 7-for-7 including two 3-pointers from the field.
Rajon Rondo had a quiet night scoring nine points, recording just one rebound and dishing out eight assists.
Darren Collison continues play well off the bench adding 12 points, seven assists and three rebounds.
Marco Belinelli – who had two strong outings heading in San Antonio – had a tough night versus his old team. Belinelli scored seven points going just 3-for-11 from floor.
Rudy Gay scored nine points, Ben McLemore (3), Omri Casspi (6) and Willie Cauley-Stein (1). Kosta Koufos was not available due to a case of food poisoning.
Sacramento shot 45.7-percent (37-for-81) and hit on six of 16 (37.5-percent) from 3-point land. The Kings struggled from the free throw line going just 14-for-21 (66.7-percent) at the stripe.
The Spurs out-rebounded the Kings 46-33.
MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 25 points despite going just 9-for-24 from the floor. Leonard made it a double-double game by hauling in 13 rebounds.
Manu Ginobili played just 15 minutes in his return to play but he scored 22 points in that limited playing time. Ginobili shot 8-for-12 from the floor and went a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
The Spurs shot 49.4-percent (40-for-81) from the field. They were just 8-for-23 (34.8-percent) from beyond the 3-point line. San Antonio shot an impressive 84.2-percent (16-for-19) from the charity stripe.
The victory lifted the Spurs record to 30-0 at home for the season.
The Kings will wrap up their four-game road trip on Monday night in New Orleans. The Kings are 0-2 versus the Pelicans this season. Sacramento desperately wants to finish 2-2 on this road trip to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They will have to play better against Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson than they have so far this season if they want to post a win in “the Big Easy”.