Posted on April 10, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The stage was set for the San Antonio Spurs to charge into the playoffs Monday night. They were playing had the benefit of playing at home and against one of the NBA’s worst teams. All they had to do was play like they know they can and this one would be a walk-in-the-park.
Or they could play terribly for the first three quarters and then dominate the fourth.
San Antonio did not appear to be taking Sacramento seriously at first. The defense was lackluster in the first quarter, and the offense was not attacking very hard. It didn’t help that the Kings were making shots while the Spurs struggled to hit baskets. By the time the first came to a merciful end, San Antonio was behind 25-17.
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The effort and intensity were better in the second quarter, but the Spurs were not able to make up much ground. At the break, they were still down by seven points, 50-43. Three-pointers ended being the difference maker in the first half; Sacramento went 7-11 while the Spurs were just 3-13 from behind the arc.
In the third quarter, it got a lot uglier for San Antonio before it got better. Sacramento increased their lead to 14-points, 62-48, about midway through the period. But then the Spurs finally started to buckle down and take control of the game.
They still struggled to score, but they were able to clamp down on Sacramento’s offense. San Antonio only allowed four more points the rest of the quarter and did enough offensively to close the gap to six points, 66-60, heading into the fourth.
That was when the magic happened for the Spurs.
The Spurs took their first lead of the game less than two minutes in off a Bryan Forbes layup. But Sacramento took it right back with a Buddy Hield three-pointer on the next possession. San Antonio took the lead for good midway through the quarter off a three-pointer by Forbes.
Sacramento refused to go away and kept the game close until the last couple minutes. But with a handful of clutch shots by Manu Ginobili, Rudy Gay, and Bryan Forbes (who combined for 25 points in the fourth), they were able to hold the Kings off.
“For moments we felt like the worst team in the NBA,” Ginobili said after the game (NBCSports), “but we still managed to go close to 50 games and make it to the playoffs in a conference that is tough and talented and young and athletics. So, we managed to compete.”
Patty Mills wrapped up the scoring with a late jumper to cap off a 38-19 quarter to make the final 98-85, San Antonio. The Spurs bench outscored the starting five, 58-40.
Rudy Gay led the way for the Spurs with 18 points in 21 minutes followed by Manu Ginobili with 17 in 27 minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge struggled to his shots throughout the game (6-19) and finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
San Antonio wraps up the regular season in New Orleans Wednesday night.
With the win, the Spurs have locked down a playoff spot for the 21st season in a row. It is the longest active playoff streak in the four major professional sports in North America. For now, they are the No. 5 seed and would face the Utah Jazz (the current No. 4 seed) in the opening round.
However, they are only a half-game behind the Jazz (who have two games left. They are tied with Oklahoma City but own the tie-breaker and have a half-game lead on New Orleans. So, the seeding is far from decided at this point.
But at this point, they are in the playoffs. After the season the team has had, fans are probably pretty happy with that.