Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (5) drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 3, 2022, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
After a mechanical issue caused them to spend an extra night at New Orleans, the Kings arrived in Texas just seven hours before their game with the San Antonio Spurs.
Sacramento was unable to keep up and fell behind by four at the end of the fourth quarter, after leading by 19 in third. However, the travel-weary Kings managed to win in a 115-112 victory at AT&T Center on Thursday night.
“This is a really good win for us and it’s a team we’re trying to chase down to get in a playoff situation,”Alvin Gentry, interim Kings coach, stated. “… The fact that we gave up a 19-point lead and still had enough focus and enough drive to get over the hump, I thought that was really good for us.”
Harrison BarnesThe Kings (24-41) scored 27 points on eight field-goal opportunities. They showed incredible resilience after a 30-point loss to New Orleans Pelicans. Barnes made 6 of 8, 4 of 5, and 11 out of 14 free-throw attempts from 3-point range.
De’Aaron Fox26 points, six rebounds and nine assists were his stats. He also had three steals and zero turnovers. Domantas Sabonis added 12 points and 12 rebounds to the game, before fouling out in a final minute.
Lonnie Walker IV came off the bench to score 30 points for the Spurs (24-39), who left coach Gregg Popovich one win away from tying Don Nelson’s NBA record of 1,335 wins. Dejounte Murray scored 29 points, had 12 rebounds, and provided seven assists.
In the Western Conference playin race, Sacramento took a game from San Antonio. The Kings are now 3 ½ games behind the Pelicans, 2 ½ games behind the Portland Trail Blazers and one game behind the Spurs for the final play-in spot in the West.
“I think the biggest thing for us was, looking at last night (against the Pelicans), that was a very important game for us and we didn’t rise to the occasion,” Barnes said. “We kind of let the game slip away in the second half … so coming into this game tonight, we knew that regardless of the situation, the travel, fatigue, whatever it may be, we just wanted to try to do what we can to get a win and keep our season afloat, and that’s what we did.”
The Kings stayed in New Orleans after their 125-95 loss against the Pelicans. They couldn’t fly to San Antonio because of a mechanical problem with the plane. The team spent nearly four hours at the arena after the game waiting for a resolution before the NBA, which typically doesn’t permit same-day travel, told the Kings they could fly to San Antonio on Thursday to play the Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back.
“We got pretty much stuck in New Orleans last night,”Gentry stated this during his pregame conference. “We had mechanical problems with the plane and the NBA ended up deciding we could stay for the night, so we ended up going to the hotel at about 2 o’clock in the morning, and then we got up this morning and came here.”
The Kings didn’t arrive in San Antonio until Thursday afternoon. Gentry admitted the delay disrupted the team’s routines and preparation for the game.
“Obviously, it affected the whole thing from the standpoint of (preparation),”Gentry said. “We would not have a shootaround on a back-to-back, but we would have a walkthrough, and we decided it was more important to have the guys rest.”
The Kings were able to summon the energy they needed during the first half. They led 64-51 at the break. The Kings led 50-40 by the end of the second quarter. In the first half, Sacramento shot 52.3%. They made 6 of 14 (3.429) shots from 3-point range and had 16 assists on 23 made baskets.
The Kings went up 77-58 in the third quarter before the Spurs stormed back to take a 99-97 lead — their first lead of the game — on a basket by Murray with 5:01 to play in the fourth. With four minutes left, the Kings trailed four but took a 9-0 lead after a series of defensive stops.
“This is a game of runs, and they made their run, so at some point we had to stop the bleeding, and after a timeout, we were able to do that,”Fox stated. “After that, I just think we were able to stay in the game and, ultimately, we finished the game out. I think with about four minutes left, we came up with four or five stops in a row, and those are things you have to do.”
The Kings agreed before the game they wouldn’t let their travel woes become an excuse for a poor performance, but Barnes, a 10-year NBA veteran, admitted the night presented a unique challenge.
“Today was definitely different,”He said. “There was that outlet pass that Fox threw to me, and mentally I caught that ball, but physically it just was not happening, so there were definitely some moments in that game where you just have the flight and the travel that you’re kind of seeing there, just trying to stay with it, but I’m just proud of our group for being able to come out here and get this win.”
This story was first published in March 3, 2022 at 11:29 pm
Jason Anderson is an award winning sportswriter for The Sacramento Bee. He began his journalism career at The Bee over 20 years ago. In September 2018, he returned to the Sacramento Kings.