Spurs seeking 'playoff intensity' against Kings
The San Antonio Spurs have secured a spot in the playoffs for the NBA-record-tying 22nd consecutive year, but still have unfinished business over the final six games of the regular season, beginning when they host the Sacramento Kings on Sunday at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs booked a spot in the postseason when Sacramento was eliminated in a 119-108 loss at Houston on Saturday.
"It's getting close to playoff time," Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge said. "Every game is going to have playoff intensity or implications. We need every win we can get."
San Antonio (44-32) currently holds the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoff race. No. 8 Oklahoma City has the same record as San Antonio, but the Spurs are seeded higher because they own the tiebreaker against the Thunder.
The Spurs' playoff streak matches the league's longest run of postseason appearances, set by Syracuse/Philadelphia from 1950 to 1971. The Nationals made the playoffs 14 straight times (1950-63) before moving to Philadelphia after the 1962-63 season and becoming the 76ers. Philadelphia then advanced to the postseason eight straight times (1964-71).
San Antonio beat Cleveland 116-110 at home on Thursday in its most recent outing, capturing its 11th victory in 14 games. DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 25 points and dished out a game-high eight assists.
Bryn Forbes followed with 19 points while Marco Belinelli (16), Aldridge (14), Rudy Gay (12) and Patty Mills (11) also scored in double figures for the Spurs in the win over the hapless Cavaliers.
San Antonio has six games left in the regular season -- three at home and three on the road. Only one of those, at Denver on Wednesday, will be against an opponent with a winning record. The Nuggets and the defending champion Golden State Warriors are tied for the No. 1 seed in the West.
San Antonio struggled to put away Cleveland and has constantly underperformed this year against the league's worst teams, dropping game to New York, Phoenix and Chicago. The Spurs still have time to develop some consistency and add to their momentum for the playoffs.
"We're not mature enough as a group to understand good teams also have to beat the teams they're supposed to beat," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told the San Antonio Express News. "We're inconsistent and looking for more habitual play."
The Kings' loss to Houston on Saturday also guaranteed Oklahoma City its fourth straight trip to the playoffs and assured that Sacramento will not participate in the postseason for the 13th straight year.
Bogdan Bogdanovic had 24 points to lead the Kings in Saturday's loss while Buddy Hield added 21, and De'Aaron Fox hit for 18 points.
"Next year, we should definitely make the playoffs," Fox said. "What happened here 10 years ago doesn't matter. Everyone feels like we can turn this around."
Marvin Bagley had 20 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento, becoming the first player to record double-doubles in each of his first three career starts since the NBA started listing starters in box scores in 1970-71.
Sacramento (37-39) has lost two straight and is winless in three games against Houston this season.
"I liked the way our guys fought," Sacramento coach Dave Joerger said after the loss. "Came down to the fourth quarter and we didn't get enough shots to go down. Houston made a lot of big shots, and that's what they do."
Sacramento has defeated the Spurs in both meetings this year. San Antonio has a streak of 11 straight wins at home against the Kings, dating back to 2012.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 30, 2019