Kings look for crucial win against streaking Spurs
Two teams on opposite ends of the NBA postseason spectrum go head-to-head Monday night when the San Antonio Spurs visit the Sacramento Kings.
Seeking to make the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive season, the Spurs (32-22) begin the week atop the Southwest Division and with the fifth-best record in the Western Conference overall.
But despite five straight wins and 21 in their last 29 games, little separates the Spurs from their chief competition in the Southwest, with Houston (30-22) just one game behind.
And the gap between would-be playoff teams and would-be lottery teams in the West isn't very big, with the Spurs currently enjoying just a four-game cushion over the Kings (27-25), who will take the court Monday on the outside looking in as the No. 9 team in the conference.
Sacramento got the upper hand on a possible playoff tie-breaker with a 104-99 home win over San Antonio in November. The first team to two wins will capture the three-game season series.
The Kings, who haven't made the playoff since 2006, made a statement Saturday night that they belong among this year's hopefuls. They used a strong finish to overtake the Philadelphia 76ers 115-108 for a second straight win.
With Houston, Denver, Golden State and Oklahoma City also among the club's next seven opponents, the Kings realize having a chance in April means giving themselves a chance in February.
Buddy Hield was the hero of Saturday's win, single-handedly outscoring the 76ers 9-5 over the final 2:54.
His clutch stretch included two 3-pointers, giving him seven in the game and 504 in his three-year career, the third-most in NBA history in the first three seasons of a player's career.
Hield still has 30 games remaining to potentially catch the two guys ahead of him -- Klay Thompson (545) and Damian Lillard (599) -- and become the first in NBA history with 600 3s in his first three seasons.
"It would be an honor, but I'm ... not trying to chase it," he insisted to reporters before Thursday's game. "When you start to chase numbers, then you get mentally messed up in your head. I'm just letting it come as it comes."
The Kings have taken the same approach to the season, one that's already included a win over San Antonio, which had beaten Sacramento 14 straight before the defeat in November.
Like the Kings, the Spurs also are encountering a key stretch in their schedule. Monday's game begins their annual "Rodeo Trip," with the team playing eight in a row on the road.
The sequence sandwiches the All-Star break, which adds to its length. The Spurs don't play their next home game until Feb. 27.
The Spurs were proud on Saturday night to have taken care of business at home, enabling them to pack the momentum of their five-game winning streak when they flew to Sacramento on Sunday.
"The whole thing I've been preaching," Spurs All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge noted of the pending road trip after Saturday's 113-108 home win over New Orleans, "is take care of the homestand."
Aldridge had 14 points and 18 rebounds in the earlier visit to Sacramento. But the Spurs allowed the Kings to shoot 50 percent and had trouble containing point guard De'Aaron Fox, who made seven of his nine shots on a 19-point night.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 4, 2019