The San Antonio Spurs look to be more disciplined on defense and find a way to close out games when they head home to host the scrappy Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.
The Spurs return to the floor after a 99-94 loss in Oklahoma City on Sunday in which they squandered a 16-point first-half lead before fighting back to make it a one-possession game in the final seconds.
San Antonio led by 10 at the half but was outscored 34-14 in the third period as it missed 11 of its final 13 shots in that quarter.
“We got to learn from that — not just settling and doing what we do to keep those leads,” guard Lonnie Walker IV said. “We just got to come together. When these scoring droughts come, we try and do it ourselves.”
Keldon Johnson led the Spurs with 22 points in the loss while Walker had 15 off the bench, Drew Eubanks scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Dejounte Murray, Doug McDermott and Thaddeus Young added 10 points apiece.
Six of San Antonio’s seven losses this season have come by an average of five points. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said the Spurs focused on defense during their off-day practice on Tuesday.
“Our defense has gotten a little less disciplined,” Popovich said. “It really showed in (losses to) Indiana and OKC. We stayed in the game and had chances because we’re competing well, but the execution defensively both individual and team-wise has slacked off.”
Popovich added that he isn’t sure about the availability of Jakob Poeltl for this week as the Spurs center deals with health and safety protocols. “We know he is not going to be ready for (the Kings game) or Friday (against Dallas),” Popovich said.
The Kings head to the Alamo City on the heels of a 109-104 home loss to defending Western Conference champion Phoenix that went down to the final seconds. Sacramento’s poor third quarter allowed the Suns to build a 21-point lead early in the fourth, but the Kings rallied to within a possession before a late turnover and free throws by Phoenix closed out the game.
“We want to hang on and feel what it felt like to just get pretty much punked out there in that third quarter because that didn’t feel good for anyone,” Sacramento coach Luke Walton said after the loss. “Nobody enjoyed that, and that should hurt. We should hold onto that, and we should also focus on the intensity we played with in the fourth.”
Harrison Barnes led the Kings with 26 points in the loss while De’Aaron Fox scored 24, Buddy Hield had 14, and Terrence Davis and Davion Mitchell added 13 and 12 points, respectively, on Monday. The Kings have dropped two straight games.
Down by as many as 24 points in the third quarter, the Kings could have quit, but they didn’t. It’s the same tenacity Sacramento had shown over the first 11 games of the year when it produced five wins despite playing one of the league’s toughest schedules.
“Loved the fight that the group showed,” Walton said. “Unfortunately, it took the bench to come in and do that, What I’m most disappointed in is wasted opportunities. That third quarter was disgusting.”
The Kings played against Phoenix without guard Tyrese Haliburton, who had lower back tightness.