SACRAMENTO, Calif. - While a fast-paced offence has become more of a fixture in recent years, the San Antonio Spurs can still grind out games when needed. Marco Belinelli scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, Kawhi Leonard had 15 points and seven rebounds and the NBA-leading Spurs turned in a vintage performance to beat the Sacramento Kings 99-79 on Friday night for their 12th straight win. "It was an ugly game, wasnt it?" Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, proudly. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker added 14 points apiece, and Tiago Splitter had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs (52-16), who remain 1 1/2 games ahead of Oklahoma City and Indiana for the leagues best record. The winning streak also is San Antonios longest since rolling off 12 in a row in November 2010. Sacramento outshot the Spurs 40 per cent to 38.7 per cent but was outrebounded 52 to 48. San Antonio forced 15 turnovers and committed only nine, pulling away in the fourth quarter behind its shut-down defence. "It was one of those games where we couldnt make a shot," Ginobili said. "The good thing is that they couldnt, either." Isaiah Thomas scored 18 points and DeMarcus Cousins had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Kings, who were held to a season low in points against a franchise that has dominated them — like a lot of other teams — for a decade. The Spurs finished 3-0 against Sacramento this season. Theyve also won 30 of the past 33 meetings, including nine straight overall and 11 in a row in Californias capital city. "If you had told me going into tonights game that we hold the Spurs to 99 points, 38 per cent from the field, and 20 per cent from three-point, I wouldve said we were going to win the game," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "They just keep at it for 48 minutes, and thats why I think that they are the favourite to win the NBA championship." The Spurs shook off a slow start and started rolling late in the second quarter, speeding up the pace and looking for those "great, not good" shots the way Popovich always preaches. San Antonio led 47-37 at intermission despite shooting 1 for 13 from 3-point range. The Spurs finished 5 for 25 from beyond the arc, while the Kings were 4 for 14. Tim Duncan also missed his first seven shots for San Antonio before banking in a jumper in the third quarter. He finished with 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting and added nine rebounds and six assists. "Its a great reminder that we can win with defence," said Parker, who also had five rebounds and four assists. "It was not pretty. We were not shooting well. But sometimes you need to win those kind of games. We know in the playoffs, sometimes the ball doesnt go in." The Kings kept the Spurs within striking distance, and appeared to move even closer when Thomas made a 3-pointer as the third quarter ended. Instead, officials ruled Thomas shot came after the buzzer — and upheld the call after a video review. Belinelli swished a jumper at the start of his big fourth quarter to lift the Spurs ahead 73-57. And Duncan quieted Sacramento for good with a jumper that gave San Antonio an 86-69 lead with 5:35 to play. "I dont think we moved the ball enough," Cousins said. "We came down and got quick shots. That kind of hurt us. If we moved the ball a lot better we wouldve had a chance at this game." NOTES: Kings F Royce White, the 16th overall pick in the 2012 draft by Houston, made his NBA debut. He entered with 56.1 seconds remaining and never touched the ball. ... Former Kings centre Vlade Divac sat courtside next to team owner Vivek Ranadive and received a standing ovation when he was introduced on the video board during a timeout in the first quarter. ... San Antonio closes a three-game California trip at Golden State on Saturday night in a rematch of last seasons second-round playoff series won by the Spurs in six games. ... The Kings host Milwaukee on Sunday. ___ Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP Cory Littleton Jersey
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. FLIP SAUNDERS (Timberwolves): Im not the least bit surprised that he appointed himself as head coach after his search concluded.OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators hope to make the most of home-ice advantage this season after giving up too many valuable points at Canadian Tire Centre in 2013-14.After a successful season-opening road trip (2-1-0), the Senators play their home opener Thursday night as they host the Colorado Avalanche in the first of a four-game homestand.Players and coaches talked Wednesday of the normal excitement to play the home opener, but more important is setting the right tone for the season.Its a brand new season and we have to start things differently, said head coach Paul MacLean. I think this year coming home weve gained some momentum from our games on the road and we need to bring that to the rink (Thursday) night and start with one game. Weve got to make sure were ready to play and play hard.The Senators finished with an 18-17-6 record on home ice last season, compared to 19-14-8 on the road.It marked just the second time since 1997-98, minus the shortened lockout season, that they failed to win 20 games on home ice.The Senators finished last season five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and players cant help but wonder how a few more wins at home might have altered their season.Weve got a good crowd behind us here and we need to find a way to use that energy and find ways to win games, said forward Clarke MacArthur. We had some issues in the second period last year that kind of hurt us and this year its more about keeping our foot on the gas pedal I think. You want to play with the puck and have possession of the puck all game. Its a better way to go through any hockey game.Its the first of four home games we want to start on the right foot.Part of the Senators problems at home last year came from their defensive play as they gave up 133 goals at Canadian Tire Centre. Only Edmonton (134) gave up more goals at home.The Senators have allowed just five goals on the road through three games this season and players believe they are making progress.We know what we need to address, said captain Erik Karlsson. Obviously last year our defensive play wasnt the best, but I think its much improved this year, even though were only three games in. We made a few mistakes and ttheres a few things we need to clean up.ddddddddddddIts a long season and were going to have to change things as they go, but its just one of those things that everybody has to communicate about and make sure everybody agrees about what were doing out there.Better defensive play has been the theme for the Senators since the first day of camp, and MacLean has shown little patience for those who have made mistakes.Jared Cowen, who started the first two games as part of the top defensive pairing, was a healthy scratch in Ottawas 1-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night. He also found himself on the bench for much of the third period of a 3-2 shootout win at Tampa Bay on Saturday after he was on the ice when the Lightning scored the tying goal.The 23-year-old felt he played a decent first game against Nashville (a 3-2 loss), but said he could have been better against Tampa Bay. He was still caught off guard when he found out he wouldnt be playing Monday night.Yeah it surprised me, Cowen said. Only two games, so yeah it did surprise me. It sucks, only the third game of the year. I just need to be better though.With seven healthy defencemen, MacLean wont hesitate to make changes to his blue-line. Patrick Wiercioch, who sat out the first two games, took Cowens place on Monday.If Wednesdays practice is any indication, Cowen will likely find himself the odd-man out for Thursdays opener.Right now Jared needs to come to the rink every day and continue to work at his game, said MacLean. Hes still a young player in this game — just over 100 games — so theres still a lot to learn. There are still lots of good games left in Jared Cowen. Theres like 900 games left in him.Sometimes its hard to be that age and we dont want him to accept that youre being scratched from games. But we expect youre going to come in and work with us to become a better player because thats what its all about.Notes: MacLean did not name his starting goaltender for Thursdays game. ... Defenceman Marc Methot remains sidelined with a back injury and there is no timetable for his return. ... MacLean didnt confirm that Curtis Lazar would play Thursday, but the rookie centre is expected to dress for the home opener. 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