Even in defeat, Kings can be proud of their effort

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday's game against the Clippers was another addition to the loss column, but there was a lot of good that can be built upon for future games.

Today's loss against the Clippers was definitely disappointing.  Sacramento managed to erase a large deficit and had a legitimate chance to win the game at the end.  Alas, they did not come out victorious.  Chris Paul hit some superstar shots in the fourth quarter, Sacramento missed a few key ones of their own, and Los Angeles emerged the victor.  Still, there are some good lessons to be learned from this game.

For instance...

  • The Kings offense looks so much better when players move without the ball.  DeMarcus Cousins had 7 assists on the night, and quite a few of them came from him finding open men rolling to the basket.   Patrick Patterson was especially good at this.
  • Speaking of Patterson, he still hasn't found his outside shooting stroke, but he had a breakout game regardless.  He was able to get great positioning inside which gave him a lot of opportunities for easy baskets and offensive putbacks.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute CAN play SF and he's making a lot of fans in Sacramento.  Luc is possibly the best defender Sacramento has had since Artest, and the fact that he's able to guard almost any position is an added bonus.  Tonight Coach Malone featured him on both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.  Griffin ended up just 3-10 from the field, and while Paul shot a lot better (7-13), Mbah a Moute increased the difficulty of Paul's attempts a lot.  Luc is also more than competent on the offensive end as well, able to hit the open shot and move the ball as well (3 assists).
  • Isaiah Thomas is a free throw drawing machine.  Thomas got off to a slow start, but once the second half hit, he got into a bit of a groove, and was particularly adept at getting to the line.  Thomas had nearly half of Sacramento's free throw attempts by himself.
  • John Salmons is best as a SG.  The Kings tried to play Jimmer Fredette today but the defensive mismatch proved too troublesome.  Malone then opted to move Salmons to the SG spot for large stretches where he did a great job defending Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick.  If Ben continues to struggle, I wonder if we'll see Salmons return to the starting lineup at his more natural position.
  • Sacramento cannot get off to bad starts and/or give up big deficits.  I saw a lot of reaction after the game pointing out this play or that play as plays that cost the Kings the game.  There was also a lot of blame put on the officiating.  The simple fact is that you can't spot a team like the Clippers 20 points if you want a good chance to win the game.
  • DeMarcus Cousins has shown a lot more patience on offense this year.  However there is one area that I think he can focus on for even more improvement, and that is cutting down or eliminating his pull-up jumpers.  I'm fine with Cousins shooting a jumper when he's wide open and it's a catch and shoot situation.  According to NBA.com's tracking data, Cousins is shooting 48.1% when he catches and shoots, 50% when he drives and 50% when he is near the basket.  However, when he pulls up for a shot, his percentage plummets all the way to just 10%.  That's basically a turnover.  If Cousins can eliminate pull-up jumpers that will be better for both his efficiency and better for the team.
The Kings aren't yet a good team, but there are good pieces to work with here.  If Sacramento can channel the same energy and effort they had today against the Lakers tomorrow, they should come away with a win.

Random Observations:
  • Ben McLemore is still looking a little out of place as a starter, but he is showing something good every game.  His breakaway dunk early was almost an in-game free throw line dunk, but I was more impressed with the three he hit on the next possession.  That was shot with confidence and without rushing, something he'll need to continue to work on.
  • Outlaw definitely deserved to be ejected.  You can't wrap up a guys neck like he did to Redick, you just can't.  Go for the block and foul hard there but you have to make a play on the ball, or at worst, wrap his body.
  • Judging by Kings fans reactions in both the post-game thread and on Twitter, I think the Clippers have passed the Lakers as Sacramento's most hated team.  Try imagining that 10 years ago.  I for one can't wait for next Friday's rematch.
  • I knew the Kings were going to lose when Paul hit that incredible three with a couple minutes left.  Shots like that are heartbreakers.
  • I think the Kings did a poor job of executing the final play and the Clippers did a good job of defending it.
For the Clippers perspective, head on over to Clips Nation
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