Same different, different gym. A little less unprofessional, but a little bit worse.
The Kings fell in overtime to the Golden State Warriors for the second time this season. There were no choke signs or Vladimir Radmanovic three-pointers. But there was plenty of what is known as DERP. Oh, was there DERP.
Sacramento led by nine points with three minutes left at 99-90. Not only did the Warriors come back. They came back with 1:15 to spare! It went a little like this ...
* Stephen Curry three-pointer over Beno Udrih.
* Tyreke Evans turnover.
* Stephen Curry three-point play on Beno Udrih.
* Tyreke Evans turnover.
* Dorell Wright two-pointer.
* DeMarcus Cousins blocked in the lane.
* David Lee hits one of two from the line.
Those first four possessions show one of the Kings' overriding problems since the trade of Kevin Martin last season. Beno is a huge sieve on defense. He makes an occasional good play, and he tries hard. But he has little capacity of staying in front of anybody, on the pick-and-roll, in isolation, on cuts -- anywhere. He's awful on defense.
But Evans still can't make consistently good decisions with the ball, so you need another ballhandler out there with him when the pressure's on. Reke's had some game-winners, sure. But there have been even more meltdowns like this. I'd love to tease out the timing of his turnovers. My hunch says that they are more frequent in the late fourth quarter.
So, here we have it: Beno's defense kills the team on one end, but Reke's needs ballhandling help desperately. So what do the Kings do in the final three minutes, up nine? Beno guards the second most dangerous Warrior while Reke runs the offense into the ground. The worst of both worlds.
The Warriors reeled off 10 straight to open overtime; fortunately, Kings fans have come to realize overtime means a loss for Sacramento. I almost wish they'd keep Bill Walton on the TV broadcast for the end of a game instead of second and third quarters, because I think he would storm the court and start screaming at everyone in a purple jersey. That'd be more entertaining than the Kings in overtime. To add injury to insult, Donte Greene, in a hustle play down seven with 26 seconds left, collided with Ellis, who had to be helped off the court. You can't fault Greene for the hustle, but you hate to see an MVP-caliber player like Monta go down in overtime. It just proves that meteors like the Kings in crunch time always result in collateral damage.
Evans ended up with a fine line, with 35 points on 14-29 shooting, five assists, three rebounds, three steals, and, guh, six turnovers. He started awful from the floor, missing layups and jumpers alike. But he came around to put upa ton of points. He also held Ellis to 12-29 shooting, no small feat.
Of course, Ellis hit the shot that sent the game to overtime over Evans, a repeat of his game-winner against the Pacers from Wednesday.
I'm not exactly sure the Kings staff would want Evans to play that; my guess is that the pull-up jumper would be preferred to forcing Ellis to drive into the "teeth" of the Kings' interior defense, where an and-1 could end the game.
The Kings staff did apparently want to try another back-cut alley-oop at the buzzer; you'll be unsurprised to learn that this effort, too, like the one in Atlanta, failed. Donte delivered the pass. Curry locked Omri Casspi's arm up, but, as Grant Napear said repeatedly, hopefully in earshot of Paul Westphal, the refs are never going to call that. An inbounds alley-oop rarely works, especially when neither of the players involved have particularly wonderful hands. The Kings don't have a plethora of shooters, especially with Francisco Garcia out. Still, I feel like with 0.9 seconds left, you have a better chance converting a catch-and-shoot and a catch-and-dunk.
Nine of the Kings' last 11 games have been really close affairs (with a blowout win over Denver and the loss in Boston the exceptions.) In those nine games, three of which went to overtime, the Kings are 2-7. Sacramento is playing so, so, so much better in January than it had all season. But it's not adding much to the win total. The cynical and/or sinister could convince themselves that's the best of both worlds: players are showing progress and effort, but the team's draft status is perserved.
I'm not willing to feel like way for a third straight season. I really, really would love to see these games end as Kings wins.
(Note: I'm not going to cry when the Kings get the No. 4 pick.)