Kings visit NBA's best team in San Antonio

Kings visit NBA's best team in San Antonio

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.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's loss despite five home runs

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's loss despite five home runs


Hit five home runs, and a team has to like its chances of winning.

The A’s simply couldn’t keep up with the Houston Astros’ bats, however, in an 11-8 loss Wednesday night that snapped Oakland’s four-game winning streak. Khris Davis went deep twice, and Ryon Healy, Jed Lowrie and Matt Olson all went deep as the A’s set their season high for home runs.

But Houston racked up 17 hits against Jesse Hahn (3-6) and four relievers and evened this three-game series at a game apiece. It was the second time Hahn has gotten knocked around by Houston inside of a week.

The A’s took an early lead, 5-4, in the third on the second of Davis’ two homers, part of a four-run rally for Oakland. But the Astros answered right back with five runs in the bottom half, and the A’s never recovered from that momentum swing.

Hahn’s struggles continue: Hahn was trying to rebound after the Astros hung nine earned runs on him last Thursday at the Coliseum. Things didn’t improve Wednesday at Minute Maid Park, as the right-hander lasted just two-plus innings and allowed six runs on nine hits. Is this a case of one team simply having Hahn’s number or do the A’s make a move and try someone else in the rotation? It bears watching.

Krush Davis x 2: It was apparent early this would be a slugfest, with Khris Davis homering twice within the first three innings as the A’s tried to keep pace. He led off the second with a shot to left field, then came back with a three-run blast to left in the third that put Oakland up 5-4. The homers were his team-leading 20th and 21st.

Reddick-ulous night: Josh Reddick filled up the stat sheet against his old team in every way imaginable. He went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs, and twice caught the A’s by surprise by stealing third base. For good measure, he turned in an excellent running catch in right field to rob Yonder Alonso.

Strange offensive night: What to make of this night offensively for the A’s? They hit a season-high five homers but also struck out a whopping 17 times. No matter … you can’t hang this one on the offense, because …

The pitching staff just couldn’t hold things down: Josh Smith was called upon to hold down the fort after Hahn departed in the third, but Smith was tagged for three runs on four hits. Daniel Coulombe and John Axford also got touched for runs. Rookie Michael Brady did turn in 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

WASHINGTON – Albert Almora Jr. didn’t use Wednesday’s Oval Office photo op as a subtle form of political protest, but it did sort of look like the Cubs outfielder gave President Donald Trump the middle finger, at least from that angle in an image that went viral on Twitter.    

“There was two fingers! Look closely, there was two fingers!” a veteran player yelled across the room as reporters gathered around Almora’s locker inside the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. 

“Guys were giving me a hard time about it,” Almora said, “but I pointed out the second finger. We’re all good.”

In another White House visit that didn’t look nearly as unofficial or informal as the Cubs said it would be, one snapshot became Almora with part of his left hand in his pocket. Almora stood near Kris Bryant – who held a 45 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel – and Trump at his desk with the World Series trophy.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Almora said with a laugh. “I’m getting ready to take a picture and I’m posing there. But you guys know that I would never do that to the president of the United States. 

“I respect everybody. It is what it is. We laugh about it now, but there’s definitely two fingers out there.”