Two days ago, I called the opening night loss to the Bulls semi-encouraging thanks to how the Kings managed to stick with an incredibly good defensive team despite subpar performances from most of its top players.
Tonight was the opposite of that. Tonight was a loss that left a really, really bad taste in my mouth. Similar to Wednesday's game in Chicago, the Kings were actually in a position to win this one. The difference was that they really had no business being in that kind of position. The Timberwolves outplayed and outworked the Kings the entire night despite missing their two best players in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. For most of the night the Timberwolves looked like a team while the Kings looked like five individual players each doing their own thing. It is frankly amazing that the game was as close as it was considering.
The game got off to a bad start incredibly quickly. Just 13 seconds in, DeMarcus Cousins picked up his first foul, setting the tone for the kind of night it would be for him and the rest of the Kings. Fouls, bad shots, bad execution, bad recognition... all were rampant for the first half. Keith Smart went 12 deep into the rotation in the first 16 minutes of the game alone, desperate for anything that could work. One of the first subs off the bench was Travis Outlaw, who didn't even play in Game 1. He made a strong case for not playing in Game 3 either after a terrible performance in his 8 minutes, going just 1-4.
Aaron Brooks was another early sub after Isaiah Thomas got off to a bad start. But instead of getting the team into its offense, Brooks and the bench unit perpetuated the offensive crisis by having less and less ball movement. Brooks ended up playing just 7 minutes and shooting 5 shots in that time, making none.
Fortunately for the Kings, the Wolves were having offensive struggles of their own, and it wasn't really because of the Kings defense. They were just missing open shots. Chase Budinger, normally a terrific shooter, went just 3-12 on the night. Brandon Roy, another good shooter, was just 4-14. Minnesota hit just 2 of 17 three pointers. Somehow, the Kings managed to cut the lead from 18 points to just 9 going into halftime thanks to some good bench production from both Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette.
The one bright spot of the game for Sacramento was the third quarter, where the Kings starters came back with a vengeance to try to redeem themselves. Isaiah Thomas drilled three triples to cap off a 20-6 run and give the Kings a 5 point lead midway through the quarter. But as good as the first half of the third quarter was, the Kings scored just 4 points the rest of the way. Some of it was Timberwolves defense, particularly that of Greg Stiemsma, who blocked 4 shots and altered several more. Some was simply bad luck. Tyreke Evans especially missed several layups that he'd normally hit. A lot was bad execution. James Johnson spent too much time trying to create shots instead of giving the ball to his guards. There was a general lack of patience on the Kings side as they watched the lead slip away. Shots came early in the shot clock and the team seemed a bit rushed. After Minnesota reclaimed the lead, they never gave it back up.
The fourth quarter saw the Kings get close to regaining the lead but early foul trouble really hampered the team. The Kings picked up three team fouls in the first minute of play alone, and got into the penalty a minute later. Offensively, the fourth quarter ended up even worse than the first for Sacramento. The Kings only made five field goals in the entire quarter and one of those was hardly contested as they simply let Isaiah Thomas down the lane with less than a minute left, not wanting to prolong the game. It was an ugly finish to an ugly game.
If anyone can hang their heads up high for the Kings it would probably be Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Jason Thompson, all who were key factors of the 3rd quarter comeback. Jason looked very comfortable posting the smaller Wolves forwards Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham on his way to 10 points, 7 boards, 2 assists, a steal and 2 blocks. JT played a game high 34 minutes. Marcus wasn't able to find the range from distance but did a good job attacking inside.
Jimmer Fredette made a case for some more playing time with his play in the 2nd quarter. Defensively he wasn't doing anything to stop Barea (nobody was) but he was being aggressive and confident offensively, and hit a couple of tough shots to help get the Kings back into the game. His return to the game in the 4th quarter left a little to be desired though.
Rookie Thomas Robinson had another underwhelming night, with just 2 points, 4 rebounds and a couple steals in 12 minutes. I did like seeing his effort on the glass in the short time he was on the court, and it might earn him more playing time later on. In both the first two games, the Kings have given up way too many offensive boards. Tonight, they were outrebounded by the Wolves 53-43, with Minnesota getting 17 offensive boards. Some of this has to do with the Kings best rebounder being out of the game.
This has been a terrible start to the season for DeMarcus Cousins. This was supposed to be his breakout year. Instead he's been a net-negative factor for the team, rushing his shots and fouling left and right. Yes, some fouls were iffy but complaining is not going to change a damn thing. If Cousins wants to change public opinion about his attitude he has to give people reason to.
Chuck Hayes did work on the glass in 20 minutes off the bench, finish with a game high 11 boards. He only had 11 boards or more twice last year. Offensively though, he needs to be paired with a big man who can score down low. Thomas Robinson isn't there yet.
It's early in the season yet. One bad game or even two does not beget a trend. With another game in Indiana tomorrow and both teams on the second night of a back to back, the Kings have a chance to salvage something good out of this trip before heading back to Sacramento.
- Nikola Pekovic has apparently pioneered a new hairstyle: The Buzzcut Mullet
- Keith Smart's rotations tonight left a lot to be desired. I understand he was desperate to search for something that works but this is not a deep enough team that we can be going 10-12 deep every night.
- Acquiring another big man, preferably a center, might need to happen soon if the Kings keep fouling like this.
- Both teams missed an astonishing number of point blank layups tonight.
- I mentioned it a bit up there but James Johnson tries too hard on offense. Jerry said it best on the telecast, just let the game come to you. Don't try to make things more difficult than they need to be.
- Complaining after fouls is not just a DeMarcus Cousins thing and that shit needs to stop across the board.
- Peaches claimed that Cisco and Barea played together internationally on the Dominican team. Barea is Puerto Rican.
- Speaking of Barea, I think he might get one of the new "Flop Fines".
- Kings need to get more people for commercials. It gets old seeing Weinerschnitzel and Pizza Guys ads two times each in one commercial break.
- Nostradumbass of the Night: For Kings and Country and KingKenji who both finished with 3 points after guessing Roy with 10 points. Iashwash and Stephen Gillis both were runners-up with 2 points for guessing a Wolves victory and Brandon Roy with under 15 points. Nobody guessed the leading scorer (Barea), leading rebounder (Hayes) or leading assist man (Roy).