Kings visit NBA's best team in San Antonio

April 6, 2011, 2:37 pm
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April 6, 2011

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KINGS (23-54) vs.

Coverage begins at 5:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- It's hard to imagine a team with the NBA's best record facing a crisis in confidence.

The San Antonio Spurs appear to have avoided such a fate as they host Sacramento on Wednesday night looking for their 12th straight victory over the Kings.

Early last month, the Spurs (59-19) seemed on cruise control en route to home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Injuries then caught up to San Antonio during a six-game losing streak - its longest since drafting Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick in 1997 - as its lead over the two-time reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers shrunk to 1 12 games by April 1.

The negative vibes from that skid appear to have dissipated with a pair of wins. The Spurs defeated Phoenix on Sunday and emerged with a 97-90 victory Wednesday at Atlanta to snap a four-game road losing streak.

"Finally!" said Tony Parker, who contrasted the Spurs' strong finish with the team's problems in closing out games.

"If we don't learn from those, something's wrong with us," he said.

Parker finished with 26 points and Manu Ginobili added 18 as the Spurs extended their lead over the Lakers to 3 12 games with four to play.

"We were a little shaky the last couple weeks," Ginobili said. "But we are still out there and we are optimistic, but yet I don't feel that we are playing our best basketball right now."

Parker has been a key reason San Antonio has extended its mastery of Sacramento this season, averaging 26.0 points on 62.9 percent shooting in a pair of victories. The Spurs also have an eight-game home winning streak versus the Kings since a 97-87 defeat April 5, 2006.

The Kings have not beaten the Spurs anywhere since a 112-99 home victory Nov. 26, 2007.

Another victory would give the Spurs the fourth 60-win season in franchise history, and their first since 2005-06.

While Sacramento (23-54) will miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season, it has been playing its best basketball the past two weeks. The Kings shot 53 percent in a 104-101 victory at Houston on Tuesday, their seventh win in 10 games.

"We are playing hard and together as a team," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "We finally have our team together, and we like what we see. I give our players credit for their continued improvement. The players are making a statement that they care about things."

Samuel Dalembert and DeMarcus Cousins each had double-doubles while pulling down 15 rebounds apiece Tuesday, and Marcus Thornton had 21 points. He has averaged 21.5 points in 21 games since being acquired from New Orleans on Feb. 23, cracking Sacramento's starting five almost immediately after the deal.

Dalembert has been a big part of Sacramento's improved play, averaging 11.0 points and 11.1 rebounds with six double-doubles in the last 10 games. He has averaged 10.6 points and 9.8 rebounds in 15 lifetime games versus the Spurs, shooting 63.7 percent.