The Spurs will try to continue their recent dominance at Arco Arena over the Sacramento Kings as the teams meet for the first time this season on Sunday night.
San Antonio, which has won eight of its last 11 in Sacramento (4-6) since December 2002, comes in following a dramatic 77-75 victory on Friday over Houston in which Tim Duncan made a game-saving block on Aaron Brooks in the final second.
“What can you say about Tim Duncan that hasn’t already been said,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team scored the game’s final 12 points. “He provides the leadership on this team. He is the center of the program.”
With Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili sidelined by ankle injuries, Duncan has to be. In three games since Parker went down, the Spurs are 2-1, and Duncan is averaging 23.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks - perhaps none bigger than his only block against the Rockets.
“I was just the last line of defense,” said Duncan, who scored 22 points. “I mean there was kind of nothing else to do there. I see him break free and come out wide open. I’m the help-side defender and I got there just in time.”
Duncan averaged 17.0 points and 5.0 rebounds as the Spurs split two games in Sacramento in 2007-08, but in his first 18 games there, he had 18 double-doubles and averaged 25.0 points and 15.6 rebounds.
San Antonio (3-5) is scoring just 82.3 points per game in its last three, but has limited opponents to 79.0 points and 39.7 percent field goal shooting during that stretch. Maintaining this dominance could be a challenge as the Spurs face a Sacramento squad shooting 49.8 percent from the floor and averaging 104.3 points while winning four of its last six.
Sacramento swingman John Salmons probably isn’t looking forward to facing one of the league’s best big men on Sunday. In the final seconds of the Kings’ 97-95 overtime loss to Phoenix on Friday, Salmons had a shot partially blocked by Amare Stoudemire as Sacramento dropped its second straight at home.
“I still think there was contact, but I don’t think anybody is going to call that at the end of the game,” said Salmons, who had 21 points, but needed six stitches above his left eye.
With leading scorer Kevin Martin out the past three games with a sprained ankle and Francisco Garcia sidelined with a strained right calf, Salmon has averaged 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the Kings’ last six games.
In his last meeting with San Antonio - a 101-98 home loss on April 14 - Salmons had his ninth career double-double with 29 points and 10 rebounds.
Brad Miller’s return from a league-imposed five-game suspension has been a huge boost for Sacramento. Miller, who had a season-high 20 points with 11 rebounds against the Suns, is averaging 13.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in five games this season.
In 20 career games against San Antonio, Miller has six career double-doubles - most recently, a 17-point, 10-rebound effort in a 112-99 win on Nov. 26, 2007.