San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) puts up a shot against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green in the first half on April 7, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
The San Antonio Spurs are not going to win 50 games this season, nor have they been able to produce the game-to-game dominance in 2017-18 that has been commonplace during a two-decade run of NBA excellence.
But the Spurs still have a chance to make the playoffs for the 21st consecutive year. That accomplishment can be reached with a win in one of their final two games, the first of which is Monday against the Sacramento Kings at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
The Spurs (46-34) took another step toward the postseason with a 116-105 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday behind 28 points from LaMarcus Aldridge and 17 from ageless guard Manu Ginobili.
Ten of Ginobili's points came in the fourth quarter, including eight straight in a 49-second stretch midway through the quarter that pushed the Spurs' advantage to 101-89 and allowed San Antonio to cruise down the stretch.
"I was just feeling good," Ginobili said about the decisive sequence. "A couple of shots went in, and I was feeling that type of rush and that type of excitement. Flow, they call it. So I was trying to use it."
Ginobili hit all seven of his shots in the win, three of which came from behind the 3-point line. He was 4 of 4 from the field and 2 of 2 from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter.
"I'm very happy that it happened again today in an important moment," Ginobili said. "It made me feel good, and it helped the team get a lead and then the rest of the guys that were in there the last five minutes were amazing both defensively and offensively, so very solid game."
Point guard Dejounte Murray added 17 points for San Antonio, Rudy Gay scored 16 and Patty Mills had 13 for the Spurs.
The Spurs remained sixth in the Western Conference standings. If the playoffs started today, San Antonio and Portland would play each other in the first round.
"Our team defense was good, tough cover," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Our big guys were at the rim the way they needed to be. Our smalls chased really well, so I thought our team defense gave us the opportunity to win the basketball game."
Monday's game will be the regular-season home finale for the Spurs, who have won 32 of 40 games at AT&T Center this season, the third-best home record in the league.
The Kings have an opportunity to throw a wrench into all of the Spurs' good feelings with an upset. Sacramento can draw on the momentum it built Friday with a 94-93 win at Memphis.
The Kings won when guard Bogdan Bogdanovic knocked down a 16-foot jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining. He then stole the inbound pass to end the game.
Willie Cauley-Stein led the Kings with 18 points, Buddy Hield finished with 14, and De'Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson each scored 13. Bogdanovic had just eight points but made the game's biggest shot.
"He's struggled shooting the basketball, it didn't seem like he had a lot of energy," Kings coach Dave Joerger said about Bogdanovic. "And he's got the purest heart ever -- he's just exhausted mentally and so he kind of lost focus. We got him some good looks."
Bogdanovic said the games at this point of the season are a grind on his psyche and don't give him the same feedback at the end.
"It's more mental because we're out of the playoffs," Bogdanovic said. "But we're still trying to win and still trying to play the right way. It's tough, but we'll figure it out, and we want to finish the season strong."
Kings forward Zach Randolph missed his eighth straight game, the last four for personal reasons. Monday's game is the road finale this season for Sacramento.
San Antonio has won 13 straight games over Sacramento and has beaten the Kings 10 consecutive times at the AT&T Center.
A Kings win would allow Sacramento to avoid the season series sweep by San Antonio for the fourth consecutive year.