Game rewind: How the Kings confounded the Spurs

Without Manu Ginobili and T.J. Ford, the Spurs have a surprisingly narrow margin of error — even against an opponent that they seemingly shouldn’t have much trouble with.

That was the case Friday night at the ATT Center, where the Spurs were stunned by Pacific Division bottom feeeder Sacramento in a disappointing 88-86 loss.

The Spurs don’t lose many games like Friday’s shocker at home. It was the first time the Spurs were defeated by a likely lottery-bound team at the ATT Center since losing to Milwaukee on Dec. 30, 2008.

As Tony Parker said, it was a strange night.

The Spurs had a seemingly safe 84-78 lead and momentum with less than 4 minutes to play.

But from that point, they couldn’t make a field goal and Sacramento escaped with what unlikely standout John Salmons called their “biggest victory of the season.”

Here’s how they were able to steal the game from the Spurs.

Game analysis: The Spurs fell behind early to an athletic Sacramento team and played from behind for the first thre-plus quarters of the game. And after they reclaimed the lead late in the game, San Antonio didn’t have the firepower needed to put the game away.

Where the game was won: After leading by nine points late in the fourth quarter, the Kings appeared ready to give the game away after Parker’s jumper gave San Antonio an 84-78 lead with 3:51 left. But two clutch jumpers by Salmons and a go-ahead 22-foot jumper by Tyreke Evans with 47.2 seconds left gave Sacramento the lead. Their defense did the rest as Tiago Splitter and Danny Green missed short jumpers on the Spurs’ final two possessions.

A little earlier … The Spurs employed a 12-2 run over the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter to take a 74-73 lead on Splitter’s acrobatic reverse layup with 9:52 left for their first lead of the game. 

Player of the game I:  Evans battled his way out of a recent slump as he scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished off seven assists in a strong all-around effort.

Player of the game II: After being dinged earlier in the second half, DeMarcus Cousins returned to wreak havoc for the Kings in a strong 17-point, 13-rebound effort that also included four steals. But his biggest play might have been the way he altered Green’s attempt to tie the game on San Antonio’s final possession.

Player of the game III: Parker provided team-high totals of 24 points and six assists, including the basket that gave the Spurs their largest lead of the game at 84-78. But after that, he disappeared down the stretch with no field-goal attempts and one turnover during the rest of the game.

Most unsung: After missing four of his earlier five shots, Sacramento’s Francisco Garcia told Kings coach Keith Smart to stick with Salmons in the final minutes. Salmons, who came into the game shooting a frigid 35.1 percent, rewarded that confidence by hitting two clutch jumpers that set the stage for the Kings’ upset.

Did you notice: The Spurs had trouble containing Sacramento speedy big men Cousins and Jason Thompson from the opening moments of the game. It got worse as the Spurs’ offense sputtered in the opening minutes with five missed shots and a turnover before Parker’s sank San Antonio’s first basket with 9:10 left in the first quarter. “Honestly, I think they came out slow,” Cousins said. “We jumped on them quick and they played catch-up most of the game.”

Did you notice II: With Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair resting, the Spurs didn’t hesitate to run their offense through  Splitter for large stretches of the game. The result was a 10-point, seven-rebound effort from Splitter as he produced a season-high plus-14 plus-minus score.

Stat of the game: The Spurs shot 37.8 percent from the field. It was their second-lowest field-goal percentage of the season, eclipsed only by a 37.6 percent shooting effort at Houston on Dec. 29.

Stat of the game II: Despite coming into the game ranked fifth in the NBA in 3-point percentage, the Spurs clanked to a 5-for-25 effort (20 percent) that continues a recent slump. In their last  four games, San Antonio has hit 22 of 86 from 3-point territory for 25.6 percent. And in Friday’s game, the Spurs missed 14 straight 3-pointers at one stretch before Richard Jefferson connected with 10:37 left in the game.

Stat of the game III: The Spurs saw their nine-game home winning streak to start the season snapped. It was their longest home winning streak to start the season since 2007-08, when  they won their first 13 home games.

Weird stat of the game: After hitting their first 15 foul shots, the Spurs finished the game at 90.5 percent. Sacramento hit 57.9 percent as the Kings sank 11 of 19 foul shots. That difference  between the two percentages (32.6 percent) has only been topped  five previous times in games where  the Spurs lost since 1985-86. The largest difference and most recent occurrence came last season in Boston when the Spurs hit 94.1 percent from the foul line and the Celtics hit 53.3 percent in a game the Spurs lost, 105-103.  

Weird stat of the game II:  Jimmer Fredette’s only basket of the game,  a 3-pointer with 9:46 left, gave Sacramento a 40-25 lead. It is the largest deficit for the Spurs in any game at the ATT Center so far this season.

Quote of the game: “They just never went away during the whole game, and we couldn’t hit a shot,” Parker on the Kings’ ability to stay ahead for most of the game.  

How the schedule stacks up: The Spurs play the back end of a back-to-back Saturday night in Houston with an approaching road game Monday at New Orleans. Those games will start the Spurs’ most brutal road stretch of the season with 14 of their next 18 games away from the ATT Center. Sacramento plays in Memphis Saturday night and will visit Portland on Monday.

Injuries: Ginobili missed his 11th game after undergoing surgery for a fractured fifth left metacarpal.  Ford missed his sixth game with a torn left hamstring. Sacramento played without forward-center Chuck Hayes (dislocated left shoulder). And Cousins was briefly treated in the locker room during the third  quarter after he described “seeing stars” after jostling with Blair and Kawhi Leonard for a loose ball.

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