Spurs want to defend better when they host Kings

The San Antonio Spurs appear to be more disciplined in defense and find a way to close games when they head home on Wednesday to host the messy Sacramento Kings.

The Spurs return to the floor on Sunday after a 99-94 loss at Oklahoma City, in which they squandered a 16-point lead in the first half before fighting back to make it a one-ball game in the closing seconds.

San Antonio led 10 at halftime, but was beaten 34-14 in the third period as it missed 11 of its last 13 shots in that quarter.

“We need to learn from that — not just settle and do what we’re doing to keep those leads,” said security guard Lonnie Walker IV. “We just have to come together. When these scoring droughts come, we try to do it ourselves.”

Keldon Johnson led Spurs with 22 points in the loss, while Walker had 15 off the bench, Drew Eubanks scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Dejounte Murray, Doug McDermott and Thaddeus Young added 10 points each.

Six of San Antonio’s seven defeats this season have risen by an average of five points. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said the Spurs focused on defense during their free practice session on Tuesday.

“Our defense has become a little less disciplined,” Popovich said. “It really showed in (losing to) Indiana and OKC. We stayed in the game and had chances because we were fighting well, but the defense, both individually and as a team, has weakened.”

Popovich added that he is unsure of Jakob Poeltl’s availability for this week as the Spurs center is concerned with health and safety protocols. “We know he won’t be ready for (the Kings game) or Friday (against Dallas),” Popovich said.

The Kings head to the Alamo City after a 109-104 home loss to defending Western Conference champion Phoenix that went to the last seconds. Sacramento’s poor third quarter allowed the Suns to build a 21-point lead early in the fourth, but the Kings gathered into possession before a late turnover and free throws from Phoenix ended the game.

“We want to hold on and feel what it felt like to be pretty teased in that third quarter because that didn’t feel right for anyone,” said Sacramento coach Luke Walton after the loss. “Nobody enjoyed that and that should hurt. We have to stick to that, and we also have to focus on the intensity with which we played in the fourth.”

Harrison Barnes led the Kings with 26 points in the loss, while De’Aaron Fox scored 24, Buddy Hield had 14 and Terrence Davis and Davion Mitchell added 13 and 12 points respectively on Monday. The Kings have dropped two consecutive games.

A 24 point deficit in the third quarter, the Kings could have given up, but they didn’t. It’s the same tenacity that Sacramento had shown in the first 11 games of the year when it took five wins despite playing one of the league’s toughest programs.

“I loved the fight the group showed,” Walton said. “Unfortunately, it cost the bank to come in and do that. What I’m most disappointed with is missed opportunities. That third quarter was disgusting.”

The Kings played against Phoenix without guard Tyrese Haliburton, who had lower back pain.

–Field level media

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