Spurs visit Kings, look to stay perfect on the road
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The San Antonio Spurs are only now getting used to having their starting five perfectly healthy. Not that it's kept them from navigating the road unblemished during the season's first three weeks.
The Spurs carry a 5-0 road mark into Wednesday's contest at Sacramento, a place where they've already won once this season. Danny Green, a 10.6.-point-per-game scorer in 16 games against Sacramento, missed San Antonio's first nine contests, including its 102-94 victory here on Oct. 27.
That marked one of nine games the Spurs (8-3) endured without their forecasted starting five. All three losses came without 19-year veteran Tony Parker, who sat with a knee injury.
Parker, Green, Kawhi Leonard (25.5 points per game), LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol did not take the floor together until Nov. 12 in Houston. On Wednesday, they'll be starting together for the third straight game — the Spurs have won three straight since Parker returned.
“Tony is Tony,” teammate Manu Ginobili told the San Antonio Express-News after the Spurs' 94-90 home win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday. “He's been the point guard of this team for 16 years. It's not something where he can take 10 days off and we're not going to feel it.”
The Spurs next get to see how strong their road magic is over the next three weeks. San Antonio kicks off a stretch in which it will play nine of 12 games away from AT&T Center. Five of the next six are on the road.
“It's always tough to play on the road,” Leonard told reporters. “We've just got to focus in, as always.”
The Heat weren't good for the Spurs' renewed health. Green took a knee in the groin and missed the second half. Center Dewayne Dedmon, averaging 4.9 rebounds in 13 minutes per game off the bench, sprained his left knee in the third quarter after colliding with Justise Winslow.
Green is questionable to play against the Kings, but Dedmon is out. Dedmon put up a season-best 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks while helping defend Kings center DeMarcus Cousins in San Antonio's earlier victory.
Cousins and his teammates haven't played since Saturday, and coach Dave Joerger used the four-day break to run through an offense that his players have been working to learn since camp. The break is their longest this season, not counting the All-Star break.
Sacramento nearly climbed all the way out of a hole it created by losing five of its first seven, but the Kings blew a 19-point lead in a home loss to the Lakers, then fell in overtime at Portland the next night. Now, the Kings (4-7) will fall a season-worst four below .500 if they lose to the Spurs, a team that has beaten them seven consecutive times.
Cousins is scoring 26.6 points per game, the ninth-best mark in the NBA, but the Kings have won only when they've defended. Three of their four wins have come when they've held an opponent under 100 points, and opponents were shooting 45 percent and turning over the ball an average of 11.3 times.
But Sacramento turns over the ball a lot, too. The Kings committed 15 against Portland, leading to 25 points, and have averaged 13 turnovers in their seven losses.
“I think some of them are just careless,” Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. “The long passes, I love the fact that guys are out running, and we're looking for our teammates. Those are good. But we're not completing them. Nothing bad happens if you don't throw that pass. Something bad can happen if it doesn't get there.”