San Antonio Spurs Defeat Sacramento Kings 102-94 in First-Ever NBA Game At Golden 1 Center
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, California — Kawhi Leonard turned into the party crasher as he and the San Antonio Spurs fought the good fight to beat the Sacramento Kings 102-94 in the city’s new Golden 1 Center.
A sellout crowd of 17,608 fans were above excitement to watch their hometown team, which almost bolted to Seattle three years, play an NBA game in the new facility for the first time. But Leonard and the Spurs didn’t care and sure didn’t want to be the first opposing team to lose there.
Leonard had 30 points, five assists, five steals and three rebounds in nearly 36 minutes for the Spurs (2-0). His sidekick, LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points, five rebounds and one assist. Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee both had 12 points off the bench.
“They are a basketball team that plays together,” Kings forward Rudy Gay said of the Spurs. “They have a system and they stuck to the system.”
The turning point in the game when the Spurs were down 68-66 with 2:48 left in the third quarter. Leonard had two straight steals, the first that turned into a three-point play and the second by free throws. Not to forget that he stole ball from the Kings and fed Dedmon a layup two three plays before.
“Kawhi was ridiculous as usual,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “He took two passes away. He said, ‘gimme em.” Just grabbed them. He did that twice in a row. I don't see many people doing that.”
DeMarcus Cousins had 37 points, 16 rebounds, and two assists for the Kings (1-1), who just made back in town on the second end of a back-to-back. The Kings were impressive in beating the Phoenix Suns on the road the night before. It would have been a much more meaningful two days with a victory against the Spurs.
“As much as this city has fought, the fans were more than deserving of this night,” said Cousins, who played 37 minutes and 13 seconds. “I wished we could have sealed the deal with a win.”
Gay had 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals for the Kings. Ben McLemore, off the bench, had 10 points, while Kosta Koufos added eight points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Ty Lawson had nine assists.
The Kings led the Spurs 57-53 at halftime. The Kings, behind a sound defensive effort in the first half and led by 11 points. But in the third quarter, the Spurs kicked it into another gear when the Kings went up by nine points on a layup by Koufos with at the 7:21 mark. The Kings didn’t score another field goal in the third quarter.
The Spurs went on a 19-4 run in the third quarter and started the fourth quarter with a 76-71 lead. San Antonio outscored Sacramento 23-14 in the the third quarter and never relinquished the lead from there.
“It was a fantastic night and we wished we could've got the win. Their starters played a lot better,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “They got into it, Kawhi Leonard hit some tough shots, a couple and-one in transition, and LaMarcus hit a really tough shot against Matt Barnes on the baseline. Those guys can find a rhythm. We fought like crazy, but they made some tough shots.”
Popovich was poised and honest in talking about how the Spurs played in the first half. He was much more clearer about how San Antonio’s system functioned in the second half.
“It was a pretty lackadaisical and sloppy performance in the first half I thought,” Popovich said. “But our defense came alive in the second half and we moved the ball a little bit better. It's a 48-minute game. You have to keep playing. Our intensity increased as the game went on.”
In two games, Kawhi Leonard became the second player since Lloyd “World B” Free to record 65 points and 10 steals in the first two games of the season.
Former Sacramento player Chris Webber sat courtside with the Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive. Washington Nationals manager and Sacramento product Dusty Baker was also in attendance for the first NBA game in Golden 1 Center.
The Kings recognized hometown favorites Paige Van Zant and Urijah Faber before their UFC fights takes place on Dec. 1 at Golden 1 Center.
The Kings will have the service of Darren Collison after the next six games. Collison was suspended for eight games due to a domestic violence conviction that occurred over the summer.
Gregg Popovich on Dave Joerger:
"Coach Joerger is a hell of a coach. He has the Kings playing defense already because he knows what he's doing. It's a tribute to those guys to pick that up, jump in, and buy that all of a sudden. If they sustain that...the Kings are going to be a good basketball team."
Photo Art and Story by T. Ray Harvey