SAN ANTONIO (AP)—This is the kind of streak the San Antonio Spurs are used to.
After dropping a season-high four straight games during a March schedule their longtime coach said is the toughest he’s ever seen, the defending champions put together two solid wins in two nights to get back on track with just a month before the playoffs.
“It’s great to get a back-to-back, get kind of a little bit of a winning streak going,” Duncan said. “The confidence I think is there.”
The Spurs on Thursday beat Chicago, who like the Kings have a losing record. They’ll try to make it three in a row on Sunday when they visit division rival Dallas, which is two games behind the Spurs in the ever-changing Western Conference standings.
“Great test here on Sunday. It’s just good to go into the game feeling a little better than over the last couple of games,” Duncan said.
After the Spurs put together an 11-game winning streak starting in February, they went on to drop six of their next seven, ending with the four-game skid.
They’re now in sixth in the West, where just a handful of games separate the top eight teams.
Ron Artest scored 23 points for Sacramento—17 in the first half—and Kevin Martin added 20. The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Kings, who are 11th in the West and sit more than 10 games out of eighth place.
The Kings tied it in the third quarter, but never got a lead after Duncan put the Spurs up 14-13 in the opening period.
“This is a game we could win. We’ve come in here and won before,” Artest said. “At a certain point in the fourth quarter, we weren’t playing for nothing.”
Trailing 79-68, the Kings drew within six early in the fourth, but six straight Spurs points from starting center Fabricio Oberto—his only scoring of the game—restored a 13-point advantage with 6:25 to go.
With his squad up 96-80 with 3:09 to play, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich subbed out Duncan and Parker.
The Kings tied it at 58 about 4 1/2 minutes into the third off an 11-4 run, which ended with Martin’s technical free throw after Popovich complained about a non-call on Duncan. Bowen also got a technical with 7:10 to go.
More fireworks on the court seemed to rile the Spurs and fuel a 13-5 run to close the quarter and put them up 79-68 with one period to play.
Then, Ginobili was called for a technical after the same play, but promptly hit a 3 to give San Antonio a 71-63 lead. Parker’s fast-break layup off a steal put the Spurs up by 10 with just over two minutes to play.
“I think it is part of the game with the calls,” Martin said. “It’s always a physical game when you come down here because you know they’re tough at home. You’ve got to match their toughness when you want to get a win.”
The Spurs maintained a modest lead for most of the first half and had a 54-47 lead at the break behind a combined 25 points from Duncan and Parker.
Udrih, a former Spur who was with the team for last season’s title run, was out for the second straight game with a lower back strain. … Sacramento C Spencer Hawes was back after missing a game with a left mid-foot sprain. … Spurs F Robert Horry left during the first quarter with a left knee contusion after a collision and did not return. The team said he would have an MRI Saturday. … In the fourth, the Kings got a delay-of-game technical with 6:17 to play. … Martin hit 15 of 17 foul shots for Sacramento.