Spurs vie to continue mastery of Kings

(SportsNetwork.com) - The San Antonio Spurs might be without their fearless leader once again when they welcome the Sacramento Kings to the AT&T Center Friday.

Gregg Popovich missed the team's win Wednesday night over the Indiana Pacers with what the team called a "minor medical procedure." Ettore Messina, a two- time Euroleague coach of the year, guided the team to a 106-100 victory at home.

"It is not easy to replace coach Popovich, even if it is just for one game," Manu Ginobili said. "He needed this win and I am happy that we gave it to him."

It is unknown how long Popovich will be sidelined.

Ginobili scored 28 points off the bench to lead the Spurs. Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard both deposited 21 points for the Spurs, winners of five straight. Leonard also pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds, and Tim Duncan went for 17 points with six boards.

Following Friday's tilt, the Spurs hit the road, starting Sunday in Boston. They will visit Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Memphis during this sojourn.

The Kings complete a four-game road trip in San Antonio. Sacramento will be back home for five straight versus Memphis, Toronto, Indiana, Orlando and the Utah Jazz.

After a 2-0 start to the trip, the Kings were handed a dose of reality on Wednesday. They fell, 102-89, to the Houston Rockets and were done in by a terrible fourth quarter. The Kings managed just 16 points, lost the period by nine and had a three-game winning streak halted.

"Fourth quarter was disappointing, we didn't execute," Kings coach Michael Malone said.

DeMarcus Cousins continued his MVP push on Wednesday with 29 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. Houston's Dwight Howard didn't play, but Cousins was still dominating.

Ben McLemore and Omri Casspi each scored 14 in the loss. Casspi started in place of Rudy Gay, who missed his second straight game with right Achilles tendinitis. Starting point guard Darren Collison also missed his second in a row with a left quadriceps contusion/strain.

Both are listed as questionable for Friday.

The Spurs' last loss came at the hands of the Kings on Nov. 15 in Sacramento. Cousins, Collison and Gay were too much for San Antonio to overcome.

The Spurs have owned this series, especially at home. San Antonio is 21-2 in its last 23 versus Sacramento and 19-4 in its last 23 as the host in this series, including four in a row.