In the first meaningful basketball game in over four months, the Sacramento Kings took on the San Antonio Spurs to kick off the seeding games in Orlando.
Sacramento were without Alex Len and Marvin Bagley while the Spurs were out LaMarcus Alridge, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes and Trey Lyles.
Both teams started off strong offensively, but the Kings fell out of it and the Spurs went on a 19-0 run early. Kent Bazemore's energy brought a spark the Kings were looking for and the players fed off of it.
De'Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic brought the Kings back with crucial scoring on offense and the teams would go into a back-and-forth affair from there. One team would make a run and the other responded almost immediately.
The Kings did take a 105-102 lead late in the game, but the Spurs responded quickly and would hold on to seal the deal in a devastating opening loss for Sacramento.
The Kings began attacking the weak rim defense of San Antonio. Bogdanovic and Fox scored the first six points for the Kings off the bench, but the three point defense wasn't there. Derrick White hit back-to-back triples to get in a rhythm early. Fox did answer with a long ball of his own. Fox continued to be aggressive and that led to a flare screen with Nemanja Bjelica who hit a three.
Dejounte Murray knocked down a three but Fox was late to close out. That's nine points allowed on late contests. Fox continued to attack the rim with fancy moves at the basket. The defense allowed easy points in the paint. White getting an open dunk can't happen. The Spurs went on a 14-2 run and took a strong opening lead. Besides Fox, no one else could produce on offense. With 1:49 remaining, the Spurs led by 16 and Marco Belinelli was the best player on the court.
The Kings ended the 19-0 run through Harry Giles, who made a pass to Harrison Barnes down low and also scored a basket after. Barnes made a much needed three but the Kings would trail 43-30 after one. San Antonio shot 65.2% from the field.
Kent Bazemore brought crucial energy off the bench, getting stops and converting the other way. Still, the Kings were shooting themselves in the foot with Buddy Hield missing threes and Richaun Holmes missing a bunny at the rim. DaQuan Jeffries also came in the game, so it's noteworthy that he's earned his spot in the rotation.
Fox and Bogi hit back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to 51-48. All the small hustle plays were working out. Fox then hit an elbow jumper to cut the lead to one. Cory Joseph then hit a three but the Kings couldn't stop the Spurs from knocking down their own long shots.
White continued to make plays offensively that the Kings failed to respond to. White's 15 points led the Spurs with three minutes remaining in the quarter. Gay also slowed down due to good defense from Barnes and quick double teams when he touched the ball.
Fox and Bogi put on a show on offense to regain the lead 63-61 with less than 1:30 remaining. Gay made a three over Bjelica who contested late but the Kings held a 65-64 lead at the half. Fox led the way with 20 points and Bjelica added 10 on 4-4 shooting. The Kings outscored the Spurs 35-21 in the period.
Lonnie Walker IV opened the quarter on a 5-0 run by himself. Sacramento looked rusty after the break but they got their first bucket after two minutes through Holmes. Walker continued to score as the Kings tried to find the rhythm they developed late in the second.
Fox continued to be aggressive at the rim, despite missing some opportunities. Besides Fox, the Kings still didn't have that second guy to help the point guard. Holmes got to four fouls so Bazemore entered the game to give Bjelica minutes at the five. Bogi then hit an off-balanced three to make it 76-75 Spurs. As I typed that, Bogi shot one from way outside to give the Kings a lead.
After making two shots in a row, White now had 20 points on 7-9 shooting for the Spurs. White shot 35.6% from deep this season, but that percentage was not in play after four months off.
The Kings took a 89-84 lead as Fox hit everything down low including a Bazemore three. However, Gay tied it up very quickly to wipe the lead away. Hield finally saw the floor in the third quarter with under two minutes to go. The Kings needed him to get going.
Sacramento trailed 96-92 going into the final quarter. Fox had a game-high 30 points, four away from a career-best number. Bogi added 16 on 4-9 shooting from deep, but they desperately needed Buddy to step up.
Hield made some bad plays to start and the Spurs led 100-92 with Fox on the bench, but then things started to turn around. Hield drove with his left to score and hustle plays on offense were rewarded with points too. The Spurs lead was cut to just two after things got cloudy for the Kings. With Fox on the bench, they just needed to stay within a few points to have a chance.
Hield forced White to travel and on the following play, Jeffries threw down a big lob to tie the game. Hield was giving great effort on defense, he just needed his shots to fall.
A Fox and-1 opportunity gave the Kings a 105-102 lead but Walker IV would tie it up right after and DeRozan would give them the lead. Sacramento just couldn't maintain a lead when they had one.
Bogi came in and drilled a big three right away for 19 points. However, fouls on defense and rebounding were still an issue. A few minutes later, Fox would score a tough off-balanced shot to reach a career-high of 35 points. He gave it his all on every single play this game.
DeRozan began to take over as the Spurs led 118-112 until Bogi responded with a big triple. Then Gay would respond with one of his own. San Antonio led by eight with under 30 seconds to go and that seemed to seal it.
De'Aaron Fox played 38 minutes and scored 39 points on 17-33 shooting, six assists, three rebounds, one steal and one block. Fox did struggle from deep finishing 1-7 but the Kings didn't have anyone else helping out their star point guard.
Bogdan Bogdanovic got into a rhythm as the game went along and helped Fox the most offensively. Bogi finished with 24 points on 8-15 shooting and 6-11 from deep.
Kent Bazemore did a little bit of everything for Sacramento, finishing with eight points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals. He shot 3-8 from the field and 1-3 from deep.
Buddy Hield played 20 minutes but only managed to score six points on 2-13 shooting and going 1-8 from three. Hield added four rebounds but today was not an ideal performance from the sixth man.
Sacramento shot 12-38 from three (31.6%) compared to the Spurs going 11-25 (44%).
Both teams rebounded the ball 42 times but the Spurs assisted more at 32-22.
The Kings scored 60 points in the paint and scored 26 fast break points.
Sacramento turned the ball over 18 times and fouled 25 times. Both numbers are not ideal.
The Kings play the Orlando Magic on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. PST.