The Kings won their previous two games against struggling teams.
The challenge was a bit more formidable Saturday night.
The frontcourt tandem of LaMarcus Aldridge (29 points, 10 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (14 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) was too much for Sacramento as the San Antonio Spurs won 108-99 at Golden 1 Center to end the Kings’ winning streak at two.
Manu Ginobili added 15 points off the bench for San Antonio (23-11).
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Buddy Hield was the latest wrinkle in the starting lineup due to injuries. He responded with 24 points and eight rebounds.
Willie Cauley-Stein added 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings (11-21).
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Hield, Cauley-Stein starting is effective
The idea of the Kings having a great, high-scoring bench is nice. But if this season is about determining the long-term future, the Kings need to find out if their prized young players have the makings of premier NBA starters or are better suited as role players.
Cauley-Stein and Hield both went from starter to reserves and found their groove. Time to see if they can keep up their improved play as starters. Neither looked passive on offense as starters, which was a good sign.
Starters to log more minutes
With De’Aaron Fox (partial quadriceps tear) out at least two weeks and Hield starting, it doesn’t seem logical to expect the Kings to split time between the starters and the bench almost evenly, as has been the case most of the season. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Vince Carter, Frank Mason III and Kosta Koufos are the three most trusted bench players now, which would give Kings a nine-man rotation.
Carter was a late scratch due to right rib pain so the Kings essentially had an eight-man rotation with Malachi Richardson and Justin Jackson seeing spot duty.
Rudy Gay makes his return
The last time Rudy Gay played in Sacramento, he had to be helped off the court after tearing his left Achilles as a King against Indiana on Jan. 18.
Gay signed with the Spurs in the offseason and scored all seven of his points early in the fourth quarter when the Spurs put the game out of reach.
Gay received cheers when he checked into the game for the first time.