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.
SAN ANTONIO (59-19)

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.

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

OAKLAND -- It was with impeccable timing, for the Warriors and for Andre Iguodala, that he has spent recent weeks summoning all the best parts of his game.

He has been a disruptive force on defense, as usual, but at a time when the Warriors needed something extra at both ends of the court, he is providing an abundance of offensive electricity.

Iguodala came through once more on Sunday as the Warriors suffocated Memphis in the fourth quarter to take a 106-94 win at Oracle Arena. Though the team’s Sixth Man again scored at an efficient clip -- 20 points on eight shot attempts -- his ability to energize teammates from Stephen Curry to Draymond Green to Klay Thompson and beyond is no less significant.

“We feed off his energy when we see him get a rebound or get a steal, push up the court, make a crazy inside-out dribble and finish at the rim, knock down threes or play-make for other guys,” Curry said. “It’s fun to watch.”

Iguodala’s rise has coincided with the loss of Kevin Durant, the team’s leading scorer and someone who plays the same position. With Durant out, Iguodala has taken on additional playing time, which can be risky for someone in his 13th season.

“He’s been fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He looks incredibly athletic, bouncy and fresh. He’s a pro. The guy just knows how to take care of his body. He’s done a great job of stepping up in KD’s absence and recognizing what we need from him.”

The Warriors have played 13 games since Durant went down with a knee injury, and Iguodala has played in 11 of them, shooting 44 percent from deep and 61.8 percent overall. The man who shot 62.3 percent from the line in his first three seasons as a Warrior is at 70.1 percent this season. Leadership also is part of the package.

“I try to read (what’s needed) when I get into the game,” Iguodala said. “Try to bring that energy. And, more than anything, lead by example. Not say too much. Just show it.”

When Iguodala is sprinting up and down the court, rising and dunking on one end, stripping balls away on the other, the Warriors are appreciably better team. If the Curry-Durant-Green-Thompson foursome is the engine, Iguodala is the turbo boost.

“We’re a completely different team when he’s as aggressive as he’s been of late,” Green said. “When he’s moving the way he’s been moving -- he’s beating everybody down the floor -- it makes us a completely different team. “

Igoudala’s minutes have spiked, from 23 per game in November, to 26 in December, to 27 in January and February, to almost 29 in March.

“I don’t want to run his minutes up too much,” Kerr said. “But if he has to play a couple extra minutes while KD is out, then that’s fine.”

It’s fine with Iguodala and it’s paying off for the Warriors.

Iguodala hopes it pays off, literally, when he becomes a free agent in July.

Though free agents entering their 14th season don’t often command big money, he is making a very impressive audition for the Warriors or any team that might be interested in his services.

Iguodala has made it clear he’d prefer to stay in the Bay Area, and at this rate the Warriors may have to find the necessary coins to bring him back.

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

The Sacramento Kings are young and lack experience. They have plenty of holes in their roster and they even sat three veterans when they rolled into the Staples Center for a 12:30 start on Sunday afternoon. 

Sacramento also has talent and they play hard. The Clippers just learned the hard way what plenty of other teams already knew - there is no quit in this team.

From start to finish, the Kings played a gritty style of defense. They closed out strong on the Clippers shooters and did their best to quash the alley-oop that Chris Paul is so famous for. Los Angeles coasted through the game assuming that they won before the opening tip. And then Sacramento flipped the table late, shutting the Clippers down in the fourth while riding a 22-3 run to finish the game with a 98-97 come from behind victory.

“I thought the whole game, the guys didn’t lose effort and they deserve it,” veteran point guard Darren Collison told media following the game. “Look at our last couple of weeks, even though the results haven’t been what we want it to be, so many guys that kept fighting, they were able to deserve this win.”

Trailing by 18 at the 5:16 mark of the fourth quarter, this game looked like so many others that we have seen over the last month. Sacramento had fought to stay in the contest, but in the end, the experience of their opponent wins out. But the Kings kept fighting.

“They didn’t lose hope, not one bit,” Collison said. “They kept pulling and pulling and pulling. Eventually they got some big threes, some big shots.”

So many contributed to the victory, but at the 2:19 mark, rookie Buddy Hield knocked down a 3-pointer to draw the Kings within six. Moments later he stole the inbounds pass and dropped in a second straight three in a nine second stretch.

“You just have to stay confident, trust yourself and trust what got you here,” Buddy Hield said.

Through three quarters, Hield had shot just 1-of-7 from the field and looked overwhelmed by the Clippers star players. He came alive in the fourth, hitting 3-of-3 from behind the arc to finish the quarter with 11 points and five rebounds. Hield scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds on the night, showing fans that he is ready to compete in crunch time.

“We kept playing and made some plays and the little things matter,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I’m really proud, it’s like we won Game 1 of the playoffs.”

With their teammates rallying on the court, the Kings bench looked like a cheerleader troup. All they needed was some pom-poms and a lot of eye liner.

Regardless of the record, Sacramento has remained a close knit group. Youth and veterans have meshed well as they forge towards another lottery selection. 

“I’ve been on a lot of teams, some winning teams and the chemistry is not as good as this team,” Collison added. “People don’t understand how hard it is to be in our shoes and come to work every single day with the circumstances that we have dealt with. But to be together still and fun, it shows a lot about this team. I’m real happy to be a part of this team. We’re not winning games, but the way we’re going about our business - we’re losing games together, we’re winning games together.”

Collison went off against his former team, scoring 19 points and handing out four assists in 28 minutes of action. Anthony Tolliver hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range to finish with 15 points and rookie Georgios Papagiannis but up 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and blocked two shots.

With the win, the Kings snapped their four-game losing streak and improve to 28-45 on the season. They play again on Monday when the Memphis Grizzlies drop by the Golden 1 Center on the second night of a road-and-home back-to-back.