SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) While a fast-paced offense has become more of a fixture in recent years, the San Antonio Spurs can still grind out games when needed.
Marco Belinelli scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, Kawhi Leonard had 15 points and seven rebounds and the NBA-leading Spurs turned in a vintage performance to beat the Sacramento Kings 99-79 on Friday night for their 12th straight win.
”It was an ugly game, wasn’t it?” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, proudly.
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker added 14 points apiece, and Tiago Splitter had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs (52-16), who remain 1 1/2 games ahead of Oklahoma City and Indiana for the league’s best record. The winning streak also is San Antonio’s longest since rolling off 12 in a row in November 2010.
Sacramento outshot the Spurs 40 percent to 38.7 percent but was outrebounded 52 to 48. San Antonio forced 15 turnovers and committed only nine, pulling away in the fourth quarter behind its shut-down defense.
”It was one of those games where we couldn’t make a shot,” Ginobili said. ”The good thing is that they couldn’t, either.”
Isaiah Thomas scored 18 points and DeMarcus Cousins had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Kings, who were held to a season low in points against a franchise that has dominated them – like a lot of other teams – for a decade.
The Spurs finished 3-0 against Sacramento this season. They’ve also won 30 of the past 33 meetings, including nine straight overall and 11 in a row in California’s capital city.
”If you had told me going into tonight’s game that we hold the Spurs to 99 points, 38 percent from the field, and 20 percent from three-point, I would’ve said we were going to win the game,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. ”They just keep at it for 48 minutes, and that’s why I think that they are the favorite to win the NBA championship.”
The Spurs shook off a slow start and started rolling late in the second quarter, speeding up the pace and looking for those ”great, not good” shots the way Popovich always preaches. San Antonio led 47-37 at intermission despite shooting 1 for 13 from 3-point range.
The Spurs finished 5 for 25 from beyond the arc, while the Kings were 4 for 14.
Tim Duncan also missed his first seven shots for San Antonio before banking in a jumper in the third quarter. He finished with 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting and added nine rebounds and six assists.
”It’s a great reminder that we can win with defense,” said Parker, who also had five rebounds and four assists. ”It was not pretty. We were not shooting well. But sometimes you need to win those kind of games. We know in the playoffs, sometimes the ball doesn’t go in.”
The Kings kept the Spurs within striking distance, and appeared to move even closer when Thomas made a 3-pointer as the third quarter ended. Instead, officials ruled Thomas’ shot came after the buzzer – and upheld the call after a video review.
Belinelli swished a jumper at the start of his big fourth quarter to lift the Spurs ahead 73-57. And Duncan quieted Sacramento for good with a jumper that gave San Antonio an 86-69 lead with 5:35 to play.
”I don’t think we moved the ball enough,” Cousins said. ”We came down and got quick shots. That kind of hurt us. If we moved the ball a lot better we would’ve had a chance at this game.”
NOTES: Kings F Royce White, the 16th overall pick in the 2012 draft by Houston, made his NBA debut. He entered with 56.1 seconds remaining and never touched the ball. … Former Kings center Vlade Divac sat courtside next to team owner Vivek Ranadive and received a standing ovation when he was introduced on the video board during a timeout in the first quarter. … San Antonio closes a three-game California trip at Golden State on Saturday night in a rematch of last season’s second-round playoff series won by the Spurs in six games. … The Kings host Milwaukee on Sunday.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP