Kings' youth on full display in entertaining loss to Clippers

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

There's a lot to like about the future potential of the Sacramento Kings, even if it isn't translating to wins right now.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Sacramento Kings found themselves down five to the Clippers.  Derrick Williams found himself free of his man and raced towards the hoop as Greivis Vasquez lobbed him the ball.  Williams threw it down with one hand, and the crowd exploded, thinking the whistle on the floor had been for an and-one.  It was not.  The officials decided that Jared Dudley had fouled away from the ball and that Williams' dunk would not count.  Sacramento's points were negated, and they would have to inbound the ball.

So they ran the exact same play again, this time with Cousins throwing the lob.  Williams threw it down hard, and if Guinness had been at the game, they might have recorded us Sacramentans breaking the world record for crowd noise yet again.

Derrick Williams' debut went about as good as it possibly could have gone.  Coach Michael Malone decided to throw him right into the mix by starting him at Small Forward with just a practice or two under his belt.  He had yet to play much this season, even in Minnesota, so I was a little surprised by Malone's decision.  I was eager to see how Williams would do at Small Forward.

I won't say he exactly succeeded, but he was much better at the position than I expected, especially defensively.  Jared Dudley played 37 minutes and only scored 5 points.  Reggie Bullock, L.A.'s other SF, was 0-4 from the field in his stint off the bench.  Williams wasn't shutting either of those guys down per se, but he wasn't acting as a sieve either, which was nice to see.  I thought he was doing a good job of being in a defensive stance, and while he did look a little slow laterally some times, he was quick enough that rotations were able to come help most of the time.

Offensively, Williams was a highlight reel.  He had 12 points on 6-13 shooting, and I think five of his field goals came on dunks, with the other being a close to the basket and-one.  He didn't showcase any range, missing both of his three point attempts badly.  Perhaps most impressive was Williams ability to move off the ball.  This is a guy who has probably not learned a third of Sacramento's play sets, but he found ways to get open right at the basket and the Kings rewarded him for his effort.  Williams also showcased some passing ability with four assists, three of which went to Ben McLemore for either layups or dunks of his own.  Williams had previously had just one assist on the season, but Malone seemed comfortable allowing him to take the rebound (of which he had 6) and run when he had the opportunity.  While it's way too early to call the trade a success or anything, I'm pleased with the initial results and look forward to seeing how he goes up against upcoming SFs like Harrison Barnes and Kevin Durant.

Another young guy that put on a show for Sacramento was Ben McLemore.  McLemore continues to show a lot of promise, with plenty of inexperience showing through at the same time.  In transition, when McLemore doesn't really have to think about anything other than "get to the basket", he's phenomenal.  He's got good fundamentals in the half-court sets, particularly in moving without the ball, but he's also got rookie jitters where he often doesn't want to shoot the ball when he catches it, and by the time he does decide to shoot the ball, it's a much tougher shot.  There was a key late sequence when McLemore found himself completely wide open early in the shot clock with Sacramento down just four points, but seemingly not wanting to make a mistake, he hesitated and the Clippers were able to catch up.  McLemore's eventual three point attempt came from much farther out, contested, and didn't really have a chance.  Once Ben starts to figure out when he should shoot, and when he shouldn't, I think his promise will start to turn into big time production.

The Kings didn't have any answer for Jamal Crawford last night, one of the downsides of losing a guy like Luc Mbah a Moute.  Sacramento wasn't exactly playing terrible defense on Crawford, and he hit some incredible shots, but there were not enough adjustments made when he was going off.  After the game, Coach Malone put the blame on that on himself, which was nice to see since it was true.  There's absolutely no reason Greivis Vasquez should be guarding Crawford one-on-one late in the games.  Crawford finished with 31 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds in an incredibly impressive performance with Chris Paul out.

DeMarcus Cousins had another huge game against the Clippers, scoring 25 points on 11-19 shooting, to go with 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks.  It was Cousins' third straight game with 6 or more assists, a welcome sight since teams are coming to double him more and more.  I also liked seeing Cousins use his strength to back down a shot blocker like DeAndre Jordan (who had a career-high 9 blocks) all the way down to the basket for the easy shot.

Marcus Thornton got the call to action over Jimmer Fredette tonight, and unfortunately looked as bad as ever.  Thornton played just over 17 minutes, shot the ball just 4 times, and picked up 5 fouls in the meantime.  The Kings also didn't get much production from Isaiah Thomas, who scored just 5 points and had just 1 assist to 4 turnovers.  When John Salmons leads the bench in scoring (14 points for Salmons in what was probably his best game of the season), that's probably not a good sign.

The Kings managed to do a lot of things right last night.  They won most major categories, including field goals made, field goal percentage, rebounds, assists and points in the paint.  But the biggest discrepancy was in free throw attempts, where Los Angeles shot 37 compared to just 10 for the Kings.  Sacramento hurt themselves by getting to the penalty early in most quarters, and also by committing a ton of shooting fouls before they were in the penalty.  Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento's two premiere free throw drawers, went to the line just three times.  That's not going to win many games.

The Kings' tough schedule continues as they welcome the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.

Random Observations:

  • Jason Thompson's had a reputation for brick-like hands for a while, but last night was Mikki Moore like and cost the Kings several potentially easy baskets.
  • Patrick Patterson continues to look fabulous in the pick and roll and not so good from everywhere else.  Please remember how to shoot again P-Patt.
  • I never thought I'd live to see the day where Shaq is in a Kings shirt with Slamson on the jumbotron directing Beat LA chants.  This whole thing will never NOT be weird for me.
  • Sign of the game: "Griffin you slam like a Maloof".  I don't even know what this means, but it sounds bad.
  • Assistant Coach Chris Jent hit a pretty sweet stepback three over Travis Outlaw in warmups, maybe we should start him at Small Forward.
  • I have no idea in the world how Greivis hit that three near the end of the fourth quarter.  He was trying to draw the foul, was desperate and threw it up, and it went in.
  • The Kings spent a lot of time waiting to get into their offense, and Doc Rivers was doing a good job of pressuring Vasquez as he came up the court, which only exacerbated the problem.  Kayte Christensen said in the post-game show on KHTK that Malone was really frustrated at how long it took for the Kings to set up their offense.
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