Daily Confidential

After opening the season with one of the best starts in the league, the San Antonio Spurs are in a funk.

The Spurs look to avoid losing three straight for the first time since late last season when they meet the Sacramento Kings at the AT&T Center on Saturday.

San Antonio (11-5) began this season winning 10 of its first 12 games, including a 108-99 victory over Sacramento (8-6) on Nov. 19. The Spurs, who eliminated the Kings in the opening round of last year's playoffs, have won five of the last six regular-season meetings from them.

Lately, though, San Antonio hardly looks like a team that has made nine straight playoff appearances resulting in three NBA championships. The Spurs have dropped three of their last four games, and are in danger of losing three straight for the first time since March 20-23, 2005.

``We're just kind of in a bad stretch right now. Not too much you can do,'' said three-time NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan. ``You've just kind of got to take a step back and that's what practice will do for us.''

In an 83-75 loss to Utah on Wednesday, Duncan had 21 points and 10 rebounds, but the Spurs still managed to score their fewest points since an 83-68 loss to Detroit on Jan. 12.

Duncan has played well against the Kings, though, as he scored a season-high 35 points on 13 of 17 shooting from the field and grabbed 14 rebounds in last month's win against them.

In 34 career games against the Kings, Duncan is averaging 24.7 points, his second-highest average against any opponent. He also has a career-best four 20-point, 20-rebound games against Sacramento.

The Spurs will likely be without guard Manu Ginobili, who is listed as doubtful for this game. Ginobili, third on the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game, has missed the last three games with a bruised lower back.

On Friday, Sacramento had its three-game winning streak snapped with its most lopsided loss of the season, a 109-90 defeat to surging Dallas - which won its 12th in a row and has a one-game lead over the Spurs in the Southwest Division.

The Kings had 41 points at halftime - only three more than the Mavericks had in the first quarter - and trailed by as many as 32. Once the game got out of hand, Sacramento coach Eric Musselman emptied his bench.

``I'm going to remember this game,'' said Ron Artest, who didn't start because of a flare-up of an ongoing back problem, but led the Kings with 15 points. ``I want to come back to Dallas and take a victory.''

Over the last four games with his back injury, Artest has missed one game and come off the bench in two others. Musselman did not say if Artest, who is averaging 22.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.2 steals in his last five starts, would start this game.

Artest had 22 points, five rebounds and two steals against the Spurs last month.

Kevin Martin was the only Sacramento starter to crack double-digits on Friday, scoring 13. Martin has totaled just 15 points in his last two games after averaging 26.5 points in his previous eight.

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