SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Sacramento Kings will miss the playoffs for the 13th straight season, yet they are seeing definitive signs of progress.
Completing the franchise’s first sweep of San Antonio a day after being eliminated from the postseason is a big step forward for the young Kings.
Buddy Hield scored 26 points and the Kings snapped an 11-game skid in San Antonio, holding on in the fourth quarter and beating the Spurs 113-106 Sunday night.
Not even Sacramento’s teams that made eight straight playoff appearances beginning in 1999 can claim they went undefeated against the five-time NBA champions. Completing the sweep in resilient fashion is a boost psychologically for a roster that includes 11 players with three years of experience or less.
“When you do something that has never been done before, those kinds of things stick with guys,” Sacramento coach Dave Joerger said.
Willie Cauley-Stein added 17 points and all of the Kings’ starters scored in double figures. Bogdan Bogdanovic added 15 points off the bench.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and 18 rebounds as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six games. DeMar DeRozan finished with 16 points and Rudy Gay had 18. The Spurs remained seventh in the Western Conference.
The Kings had lost two straight and were playing less than 24 hours after being eliminated from the postseason in a loss to Houston on Saturday afternoon. That loss clinched the Spurs’ 22nd straight postseason appearance.
San Antonio came out listless following the playoff clincher and didn’t rally until the second half.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was ejected with 9:04 remaining in the third quarter after charging onto the court to berate official Tyler Ford for an out-of-bounds call on Derrick White. On the previous possession, Ford called White for an offensive foul after a Kings player leapt onto him attempting to block a 3-pointer by Bryn Forbes. Ford then called the ball out of bounds against the Spurs when White stripped Harrison Barnes under the basket and the ball appeared to roll off Barnes’ leg. Popovich immediately charged the court, drawing the first technical, and then kept yelling at Ford, earning his second.
The technical temporarily invigorated the listless Spurs, who went on a 10-7 run after Hield made two free throws following the ejection.
Sacramento did not let the elimination affect its performance or spirits against San Antonio.
“They’re still playing with a sense of urgency, trying to get the most out of it,” DeRozan said. “It’s just not for this season but going into the summer and next year.”
Kings veteran Corey Brewer made a pair of free throws to give Sacramento its largest lead at 101-89 with 7:19 remaining. San Antonio rallied, capturing a 106-105 lead on DeRozan’s floating jumper with 2:53 remaining.
“We didn’t die on the vine or feel sorry for ourselves,” Popovich said.
DeRozan’s bucket was San Antonio’s final points as Sacramento forced five missed shots.
“This team’s got a lot of resilience,” said Barnes, who had 15 points. “We keep attacking.”
Kings: Rookie Marvin Bagley missed the game with a stomach illness. Bagley sat after matching a season-high 10 field goals while scoring 20 points. He also made 10 field goals while scoring a season-high 32 points against Phoenix on Feb. 10. . Sacramento’s last win in San Antonio came Jan. 20, 2012, as Tyreke Evans had 23 points and 11 rebounds in an 88-86 victory. The Kings have won two straight at home over the Spurs. . Sacramento had 20 assists, ending its streak of five straight games with 25-plus assists.
Spurs: Aldridge’s 18 points in the first quarter were second only to the 19 he scored against Boston on March 24 for the most points in the opening period for the Spurs this season. ... . Aldridge has 22 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, the most he has had with the Spurs.
Sacramento has finished below .500 every season since going 44-38 in 2006 ,when it finished eighth in the Western Conference.
The Kings can finish .500 by winning three of their final five games. Hield believes Sacramento can accomplish that feat.
“For sure, without a doubt,” Hield said. “We’ve just got to come out and be ready to play. We can’t overlook and say the season’s over. We have a goal, let’s get that.
“I think that will leave a good mark on the organization and a good mark heading into next season.”
Kings: Host Houston on Tuesday night.
Spurs: Host Atlanta on Tuesday night.
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