ORLANDO – In order to keep their hopes of a 23rd consecutive playoff berth alive, the Spurs knew they needed to win the majority of their games in Orlando and get some help.
One game in, so far so good.
Playing in their first game inside the NBA bubble, San Antonio used a fourth-quarter surge to knock off the Sacramento Kings 129-120. It’s the team’s first victory since a 119-109 decision over the Dallas Mavericks on March 10, one of the last games completed prior to the NBA’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Much has been made of the Spurs’ new, smaller starting lineup displayed during their three scrimmages, and it seems to be clicking right out of the gates. DeMar DeRozan led the way with a team-high 27 points and 10 assists, while guard Derrick White added 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Lonnie Walker IV tallied 16 points, and Dejounte Murray had 11. All told, San Antonio’s starters accounted for over 60% of the team’s offensive output.
San Antonio appeared to take complete control of the game with a 43-point first quarter, highlighted by a 13-0 run that put the Spurs up by 13 points heading into the second frame. Sacramento rallied thanks to point guard De’Aaron Fox. He finished with a game-high 39 points, and the Kings led 65-64 at halftime.
Both teams were deadlocked for the majority of the second half, until Walker gave the Spurs the lead for good, 114-112, with 2:48 left to play in the fourth quarter. His floating bank shot keyed a 6-0 run that essentially put the game away.
Rookie Keldon Johnson was on the floor in the closing seconds of the game and contributed 8 points off the bench. Fellow rookie Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 4 points. First-round draft pick Luka Samanic did not play.
With the win, San Antonio improves to 28-36 overall and moves a game closer to the 8th and final playoff spot. Three of the four teams ahead of the Spurs in the standings lost their opening games. The only exception was the Portland Trail Blazers, who defeated the 8th-seeded Memphis Grizzlies 140-135 in overtime on Friday night.
San Antonio will now prepare to face the Grizzlies Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.
Prior to the start of Friday night’s game, the entire Spurs team wore “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts and kneeled for the playing of the national anthem. Head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant coach Becky Hammon remained standing.