Down one point, with the game and a chance to end a six-game losing streak on the line, the Sacramento Kings had the one of the most ideal situations they could’ve hoped for: Rudy Gay was isolated on the right side of the floor with Boris Diaw defending him.
Gay, who scored 23 points on 50 percent shooting with zero turnovers Saturday, drove past the slower Diaw toward the baseline, stopped and pulled up for a decent look. The ball hit the rim once before falling back into the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.
Much like the Kings’ final play, the game played out about as well as they could’ve asked for, but ultimately, it ended in disappointment as the Spurs (34-13) walked away with a 95-93 victory.
In San Antonio on the second night of a back-to-back, Sacramento – without DeMarcus Cousins yet again – turned out a surprisingly competitive performance against the defending Western Conference Champions.
The Kings (15-32) kept the game close the entire night, even stretching a lead out to as far as 10 points. Gay was effective most of the night and led the way down the stretch, attacking the basket and getting to the foul line.
He was aided by Isaiah Thomas, who, while he shot an overbearing 26 shots to an underwhelming 11 makes, scored with timeliness. Thomas hit key shots – trading baskets with Tony Parker on a couple occasions – to keep the game within reach after the Spurs had made their move late.
However, despite finishing with a team-leading 26 points, Thomas looked fatigued at times. He registered 38 minutes against the Spurs Saturday, marking his third game in four days in which he has logged 38 minutes or more.
Thomas seemed to conserve his energy for spurts of brilliance, to the detriment of his play in longer stretches of the game. He lacked efficiency and consistency on offense and olé’d opponents as they routinely brushed past him on defense – both likely products of his heavy workload of late.
With Thomas winded and Jimmer Fredette out with a stomach virus, Ray McCallum was afforded the opportunity to see meaningful playing time, a rarity thus far in his rookie campaign. McCallum checked in at the beginning of the second quarter and tied his season-high in minutes played with just over 10. In that short time, the rookie looked comfortable running the pick and roll (though Gay handled the ball much of the time McCallum was in) and had ups and downs defensively.
Ultimately, though, it was a player 15 years McCallum’s senior that would decide the game. Tim Duncan, 37, looked five years younger Saturday. With Cousins out, he faced little opposition in the paint on either end. Duncan got Aaron Gray into foul trouble in the second half, forcing Carl Landry to defend him. Landry, at 6-foot-9, was overmatched by Duncan, who used his length advantage to launch simple, uncontested hooks at the basket. By the end of the night, against Sacramento’s depleted frontcourt, Duncan had amassed a dominant 23 point, 17 rebound performance.
With the loss to the Spurs, the Kings extended their losing streak to seven games, their longest of the season. Their next chance to stop the skid will come Monday, when they take on the Chicago Bulls at home.