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San Antonio Spurs: 3 Things that stood out in frustrating loss to the Kings

Mar 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) shoots in the first half against the Sacramento Kings at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) shoots in the first half against the Sacramento Kings at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
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San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Mar 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) shoots in the first half against the Sacramento Kings at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs couldn’t close out the Sacramento Kings on Monday

If the San Antonio Spurs were riding high coming into Monday night’s game with the Sacramento Kings, who could blame them? They’d just defeated the Chicago Bulls in decisive fashion on Saturday and were approaching what appeared to be the easiest part of their nine-game homestand.

Still, it would’ve been a mistake to overlook a Kings team that had just won six of their last seven games and had the Western Conference Player of the week in De’Aaron Fox leading the way.

Slow starts have bothered the Spurs in the past but that wasn’t true on Monday. They were hot out of the gate, pulling away to a 31-27 lead after the first quarter. Fueled by outstanding performances from Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl, it looked like the Spurs were on their way to another impressive win.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in the end. Sacramento blew open a lead of their own during the second quarter and then spent the rest of the game holding off comeback attempt after comeback attempt.

There were definitely frustrating points in the loss but there were some positive takeaways as well. Here’s what stood out in Monday night’s game.

Will the San Antonio Spurs start defending the long ball better?

One of the things that has stood out most about the San Antonio Spurs’ recent struggles at home has been how much opponents have been punishing them with the three. That was clear last night as the Kings made 18 of their 36 three-point attempts and finished with a +24 point advantage from behind the arc.

It wasn’t just one player who hurt the Spurs either. Fox got involved, Buddy Hield hit 5 of 9, Harrison Barnes, Terence Davis, and Mo Harkless all contributed three of their own. It was a constant cycle of the Spurs defense breaking down and the Kings finding open players for easy looks from deep.

This has been a reoccurring trend for San Antonio. They let the LA Clippers post +15 and +30 point advantages from behind the arc in their two losses to them last week and the Hornets outscored them from deep as well.

There are two ways the Spurs can eat into these deficits. Getting Lonnie Walker and his three-point shooting will help but the more important part is defense. Murray and Derrick White both stressed the importance of improving on that end of the floor before Wednesday night’s rematch. Let’s hope they can sit down as a team, figure out what went wrong, and come back better prepared tomorrow night.

Next: Murray's explosive first half

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Mar 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) shoots in the first half against the Sacramento Kings at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs ride Dejounte Murray’s explosive first half

Remember when we were worried that Dejounte Murray wouldn’t be able to carry a heavy scoring load on his own? He’s made those fears look silly this season.

Last night Murray put on a clinic in the first half. He recorded his first-ever 20-point half, scoring 21 points while also dishing out 3 assists and pulling down 5 rebounds. He was hitting shots from everywhere and it was exhilarating to see him in such a groove.

What is concerning is the abrupt shift we saw in the second half. Murray ramped up his playmaking, dealing out 4 more assists but he only scored two points on four shot attempts. After the game, when he was asked about what changed he gave about as strong of a comment as you’ll get from him.

Murray candidly pointed out that no plays were called for him in the second but would go on to emphasize that he didn’t care if he had a career-high or was held scoreless, as long as the team won.

This is something that’s been consistent with DJ since he came into the league. He’s as team-centric of a player as you’ll find. He’s not one to chase his own stats or complain when he doesn’t get touches, at least not publicly. So let me do it for him – given how hot he was in the first half it’s inexcusable that he was shut out of the game in the second.

DJ was a hot as we’ve seen him over the first two quarters, making 10 of his 14 shots. For him to only get 4 more looks after that is mind-boggling. He’s coming into his own as a scorer and when he’s running as hot as he was last night the Spurs need to lean into it and see how far he can take them, both for their own success and to further build DJ’s confidence.

Next: Another outstanding game for Jakob Poeltl

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Mar 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots over San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Jakob Poeltl continues to impress on both ends of the floor

Following his 20 point, 9 rebound effort against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night, Dejounte Murray stressed the importance of rewarding Jakob Poeltl’s defensive contributions with touches on the other end of the floor. He did a magnificent job of that on Monday night.

Poeltl was everywhere in the first quarter. He racked up 4 offensive rebounds and 2 blocks and also chipped in 11 points in the first 12 minutes alone. He would end the night with an impressive line of 17 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 assists.

It’s night’s like these that remind you just how underappreciated Poeltl is around the league. He was dominant on both ends of the floor but you’ll still rarely hear his name mentioned among the best young big men in the NBA.

He’s not in the upper-echelon of centers quite yet but he continues to make the 3-year/$26 million dollar extension he signed over the offseason look like one of the best bargains in the NBA. Whatever moves the Spurs make this offseason to bolster their frontcourt should be done through the lenses of complimenting Poeltl. He’s proven that he deserves to be the man in the middle for San Antonio, now it’s the front office’s job to continue surrounding him with talent that elevates his best qualities.

Next. 3 Things Gorgui Dieng provides the San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs will get the day to review the tape from last night’s game and try to figure out what went wrong. After how last night went you can bet they’re going to come out angry on Wednesday.

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