The Kings had an opportunity to see how they would fare against the best team in basketball Friday night.
Even with 271/2 games separating the two teams entering the game, the Kings had played the Spurs tough in two losses in San Antonio.
In the end, the Spurs used the guile, grit and teamwork that has defined their reign as one of the NBA’s elite teams for more than a decade in beating the Kings 99-79.
The Spurs have won 12 consecutive games, notching the latest win by holding the Kings to a season low in points.
The previous low was 84, on Feb. 9 at Washington.
This wasn’t the kind of game most expected from the Spurs, who had been on a roll offensively during their winning streak.
But the Spurs shot just 38.7 percent against the Kings. It was only the second time during their streak they had failed to score more than 100 points.
“If you would’ve told me going into (Friday’s) game that we’d hold the Spurs to 99 points, 39 percent from the field and 20 (percent) from three, I would’ve told you we’d win the game,” said Kings coach Michael Malone.
The Kings weren’t much better on offense, shooting 40 percent. But the Spurs were able to come up with 19 second-chance points while the Kings had only four.
“It was an ugly game, wasn’t it” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “A lot of physicality … We played pretty good (defense). We couldn’t throw it in the ocean but we played pretty good D and that got us in the game.”
It was the kind of game the Kings have struggled to win this season. Sacramento is 3-26 in games where it fails to score under 100 points.
The Kings (24-45), however, were proud of their defensive effort. The offense just never found a rhythm
“We couldn’t capitalize on things and they capitalized on our mistakes and that was the difference in the game,” said guard Isaiah Thomas.
The marquee players for both teams had their struggles.
DeMarcus Cousins was 7 of 18 in scoring 15 points to go with 13 rebounds and five assists. Rudy Gay shot 4 of 14 for 14 points before leaving the game with a stomach illness with 8:52 to play.
Thomas was 7 of 17 from the field for 18 points.
Spurs star Tim Duncan missed his first seven shots and finished 3 of 12 from the field. Duncan finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Guard Tony Parker was just 6 of 15 from the field for 14 points and four assists. Manu Ginobili was 4 of 11 off the bench for 14 points.
Marco Belinelli came of the bench for San Antonio to tally a team-high 17 points.
Kings forward Royce White made his NBA debut with 56.1 seconds to play.
White is on his second 10-day contract with the Kings. The 2012 first-round pick of the Houston Rockets, White was greeted with applause.
White never played in an NBA game as a rookie because of concerns on how to deal with his mental health concerns.
White has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, which leaves him susceptible to panic attacks and having a fear of flying.
He was never able to agree with the Rockets on the best way to deal with his diagnosis.
“There’s a lot of scrutiny, obviously,” White said. “Been all over the spectrum in terms of what kind of scrutiny I’ve received but I’m just trying to deal with it at a level way and an understanding way.”