For 36 of their 40 seasons in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs have made the playoffs. It’s an astonishing stat that may never be repeated. They are the most consistent franchise in the league and maybe even professional sports.
If it wasn’t for the historic run of the Golden State Warriors, they would be the talk of the NBA and the odds on favorite to win it all.
“The difference between San Antonio and Golden State - Golden State’s flamboyant and spectacular, and this team just doesn’t make mistakes, this team is just solid,” George Karl told reporters following the Spurs 104-94 victory over the Kings.
Solid is an understatement. The Spurs systematically destroy teams, the key being the word system.
Saturday night they went into battle without the services of LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and Danny Green and they didn’t miss a beat. David West, Jonathan Simmons and Boris Diaw started in their place.
How does a team replace their All-Star big man, a legend and a 3-and-D specialist with a 26-year-old rookie and two veterans in the twilight of their careers? That’s the Spurs way.
“It’s a bunch of revolving pieces,” Karl said. “The key guys of course are Tony (Parker) and Kawhi (Leonard) and (LaMarcus) Aldridge, but the other five, six, seven guys that play, be ready, they all can hurt you.”
The Kings kept it close for most of the night, trailing by just three going to the half. But a third quarter meltdown sealed their fate. San Antonio began the third quarter on a 12-0 run, including a 9-0 by Kawhi Leonard to start the period.
“Their ability to move the ball,” Darren Collison said of the Spurs breakout third quarter. “They play with so much persistence, as far as moving the ball throughout the whole game. They are consistent and it shows why they have the record that they have. They’ve been doing it for a very long time. The thing about San Antonio is you can’t make any mistakes on the defensive end.”
Sacramento didn’t put a point on the board until the 6:46 mark of the third when Omri Casspi hit a floater in the lane. The final tally for the quarter was Spurs 29, Kings 13. When you give the San Antonio a 16-point lead heading to the fourth on their home floor, the game is all but over.
“Every game has momentum swings, our momentum swings last too long,” Karl said. “Instead of lasting 3-5 possessions, they last 7-8 possessions and that’s when frustration comes in.
This is a continuing trend for the Kings. They are prone to tremendous highs and even lower lows. They rallied in the fourth, closing out the game with a 27-18 quarter, but it was too little, too late against a Spurs team that is now 30-0 on their home floor this season.
Acy was a bright spot for the Kings, scoring 16 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting night. He came out firing from the opening tip, hitting two 3-pointers in the first quarter.
The 25-year-old forward has started the last eight games for Sacramento. He appears to sense what his team is lacking and he fills the void.
DeMarcus Cousins managed to post up big numbers again, finishing the night with 31 points and nine rebounds, but he was one of the few Kings players to perform well.
Sacramento has now lost 5-of-6 and currently sit 4.5 games behind the Houston Rockets, who lost again on Friday night, for the eighth and final playoff spot in the west.
WELCOME BACK MANU
Veteran wing Manu Ginobili missed the previous 12 games for the Spurs after undergoing surgery on a groin injury. The 38-year-old future Hall of Famer looked like a new man, dropping 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in just 15 minutes of actions off Gregg Popovich’s bench.
“Manu is a difference maker,” Collison said. “It was unexpected, his first game back you would think he would have a little rust. He’s a Hall of Fame player for a reason. He’s a real good player and he’s been doing it for a real long time. He was slicing and dicing our defense, whether it was the pass or the shot.”
Led by Ginobili’s big night return, the Spurs second unit pounded the Kings bench 54-26. You aren’t going to win many games when you’re reserves get outscored by more than double.
Collison led the Kings bench with 12 points and seven assists. Omri Casspi and Marco Belinelli combined to score just 13 points on 6-of-21 shooting from the field and 1-for-7 from long range off Karl's bench.