November 27, 2014

A sparkling record, an absurdly long home winning streak and Kawhi Leonard as an MVP candidate continue to go seemingly unrecognized compared to that one team from northern California.

Too bad it's the other one coming to San Antonio on Saturday night, and the Sacramento Kings aren't expected to get in the way of the Spurs improving to 30-0 at home.

Sacramento did end a 22-game losing streak in Dallas with a 104-101 victory Thursday. But that came against a Mavericks team just trying to reach the playoffs, whereas the Spurs (52-9) wrapped up a berth this week.

That wasn't a surprising achievement but impressive nonetheless because it came with six weeks left in the season, though it came days after Golden State clinched. San Antonio's record at this point is the best in franchise history but 3 1/2 games worse than a Warriors team on pace for the best in NBA history.

Plus, Golden State tied Chicago's league record for the longest regular-season home winning streak at 44 on Thursday, leaving San Antonio's run of 38 straight an afterthought. Still, that streak is tied for fourth-best all-time with Boston's run from 1985-86. And since the Warriors have played three fewer home games, it's the Spurs who could join the 1995-96 Bulls and Orlando Magic as the only teams to open a season 30-0 at home.

While Stephen Curry remains the MVP favorite, Leonard might be in line for runner-up. His 48.4 3-point percentage tops Curry (46.5) and everyone else, but Leonard's scoring average of 20.8 is nearly 10 below Curry. Leonard, though, is significantly better on defense, and his worth at that end has been further proven since the All-Star break.

He missed the first three games with a calf injury as the Spurs allowed 109.7 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting. In five games since he returned, they have surrendered averages of 86.2 points and 40.8 percent as Leonard has totaled 12 steals.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has been just as good offensively, with at least 27 points in four consecutive games while shooting 59.7 percent. His 3-pointer with 35 seconds left Thursday sealed a 30-point night and a 94-86 win in New Orleans.

''I'm just playing in the flow of the game. It doesn't matter what quarter it is. I'm going to play the right basketball so we can get the right shots,'' Leonard said.

He's forming quite a tandem with LaMarcus Aldridge, averaging 25.0 points and 11.3 rebounds in the last three games. Aldridge is scoring 21.1 per game since the beginning of February after averaging 15.8 in his first 43 games with San Antonio.

''Being able to play with him ... I see how good he really is and I'm just starting to learn more about him,'' Leonard said.

Despite the two All-Stars combining to shoot 7 for 27, San Antonio had little trouble winning 108-92 in Sacramento on Feb. 24. Tony Parker had 23 points, a star who scored only two Thursday.

''It's tough to defend them because they don't have a one-man ego person. I mean that team is a team,'' Kings coach George Karl said. "... They have a lot of weapons."

The Kings (25-35) have lost both meetings as Aldridge helped limit DeMarcus Cousins to 30.2 percent shooting and 21.5 points - 5.5 below his season average.

Cousins' 16.9 career mark against the Spurs is his third-lowest versus any opponent, one reason Sacramento has lost 26 of 28 in the series.

Rajon Rondo had 18 assists in last week's matchup, part of a 10-game stretch in which he's averaged 14.1, but he shot 3 for 10. Rondo was 8 of 14 for 18 points Thursday as the Kings improved to 11-4 when shoots better than 50 percent.

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