San Antonio Spurs News

Spurs defeat Kings, enter Christmas strong, 108-99: Recap, highlights and more

By Rob Wolkenbrod
The San Antonio Spurs' Dejounte Murray (5) chases the ball after he blocked a shot by the Sacramento Kings' Kosta Koufos, not pictured, as the Kings' Frank Mason III (10) trails the play on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. (Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
The San Antonio Spurs' Dejounte Murray (5) chases the ball after he blocked a shot by the Sacramento Kings' Kosta Koufos, not pictured, as the Kings' Frank Mason III (10) trails the play on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. (Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
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The San Antonio Spurs played its final game before Christmas. What was the outcome vs. the Sacramento Kings?

‘Tis the season. The San Antonio Spurs played on Dec. 23, instead of joining the Christmas Day party. Probably not the worst thing for the players, who get the day off and don’t return to the court until Tuesday.

For Saturday’s game vs. the Sacramento Kings, Kawhi Leonard did not play. The same with Danny Green. That meant another limited lineup, while other players had the opportunity to step in and step up their production in expanded roles.

Without these two starters, LaMarcus Aldridge returned to his dominant ways. He stayed efficient through all four quarters, working the midrange jump shot and finding avenues to the hoop. The Kings didn’t have an answer for him, even with Zach Randolph playing defense.

Aldridge had 29 points and 10 rebounds on 13-for-22 shooting. He looked comfortable, something to watch for, again, when Leonard returns. There were spots all around the paint to maneuver, leading to this top-end performance.

So pure. pic.twitter.com/VepjegVxRx

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 24, 2017

The night became headlined by Pau Gasol, however, who recorded his 10th career triple-double. He worked the young Kings big men, at least on offense, and found ways to stay active. It kept up his recent hot streak, too, after finding success against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The @spurs frontcourt led the way to victory tonight!

@aldridge_12: 29 PTS, 10 REB – 42 FPTS–@paugasol: 14 PTS, 11 REB, 10 AST (#TripleDoubleAlert) – 41.2 FPTS#NBAFantasy pic.twitter.com/EOHWhm7NDd

— NBA Fantasy (@NBAFantasy) December 24, 2017

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Perhaps the surprise contributor of the night, Dejounte Murray had a squeaky clean performance, unlike most of his previous appearances. He didn’t commit a turnover, which was the first step toward success, and something to keep head coach Gregg Popovich happy. The 21-year-old approached a triple-double of his own, with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. It earned him late-game opportunities, along with beating Tony Parker and Patty Mills in minutes.

Defensively, Willie Cauley-Stein dominated the Spurs’ big men. He thrived on 22 points and 11 rebounds, working Gasol and using superior athleticism to his advantage. This was similar to what happened in the preseason.

Buddy Hield had his way, too, with 24 points. Losing Green and Leonard softened the perimeter defense, with Bryn Forbes not being the capable defender that the former two perform like.

Bounced back. #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/DEHGSnWSQq

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 24, 2017

Next: Top 25 players in Spurs history

The Spurs return on Tuesday, Dec. 26 vs. the Brooklyn Nets. Game time is at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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