SAN ANTONIO – It was a lackluster performance by the San Antonio Spurs against the Sacramento Kings for three and a half quarters, then all of a sudden, they hit the switch and are in the playoffs for the 21st consecutive season after a 98-85 win.
"It feels good. It feels great actually," said Rudy Gay, who is now in the postseason for only the second time in his career after scoring 18 points off the bench for the Spurs.
The Spurs struggled until midway through the fourth quarter. They were down 14 at one point, but battled back.
The score was tied at 77 with just under six minutes to play and that is when it all turned thanks to defense.
"Huge plays, defensive plays which lead to huge plays by Bryn (Forbes) and Manu (Ginobili) and obviously Rudy (Gay)," said Patty Mills.
LaMarcus Aldridge picked up a block and that turned into a Forbes 3-pointer and a three point lead.
Forbes finished with 11 points off the bench and didn't come in the game until the second half.
"I just wanted to impact the game, really," Forbes said. "I just wanted to bring that energy and find my way to change the game."
Mr. Energy himself also had another huge impact. Ginobili scored nine points during that 21-8 run to close the game out. He finished with 17 points.
"We got a little antsy, we wanted to win it in the first quarter." said Ginobili. "We had to fight really hard, it was a very tough game."
"It feels great to know were in the playoffs right now, but I think we have a lot more we want to improve and a lot more we want to accomplish. We still have one more game and then we get started," said Forbes.
That game Wednesday night in New Orleans will go a long way towards the Spurs seeding in the Western Conference, and building some confidence on the road, a place where they have struggled during the regular season.
"We haven't been great on the road. We have a lot of making up to do and I think that is going to be the mindset for everyone going into that one," said Mills.
Kings: The Kings' last victory over the Spurs was Nov. 15, 2014 in Sacramento and their last win in San Antonio was Jan. 20, 2012.
Spurs: San Antonio's streak of playoff appearances is the longest active streak in the four major professional sports. The Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL are second with 12 followed by the NFL's New England Patriots with nine and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the MLB with five. ... LaMarcus Aldridge had his 27th double-double of the season, the most he has had in three seasons with the Spurs. The 12-year veteran had 26 double-doubles in his inaugural season in San Antonio and 18 last season.
The Spurs are having to adjust to a new reality after being a championship contender for the better part of the last two decades.
Injuries to Leonard, Gay, Anderson, Ginobili, Tony Parker and others almost cost San Antonio a playoff berth.
"Sometimes you've got to adjust your goals relative to your potential, the way you've been playing, the way the season is going," Ginobili said. "So, we've got to be realistic. Maybe we're not the favorites this year or maybe it wasn't going to be a 60-win season like the previous ones. After what happened in February and early March, we had to shift our expectations. We mentioned in many times, the goal was to make it to the playoffs. Once we clinched, then we may think about standings, but the way the West is this year, it's crazy. Everything is so clogged so tight that at this point, we're happy to have clinched."