Monday was one of those nights that's happening far too often this season for the Sacramento Kings - turnovers and lapses on defense pile up and overtake any momentum the team takes into the fourth quarter, resulting in a loss.
After the 113-100 loss to Tyreke Evans and the New Orleans Pelicans, the Kings now find themselves sitting at 8-19 and at the bottom of the Pacific division by far (the Lakers are 13-15). Head coach Michael Malone's frustration boiled over after the loss and in true Festivus form, he was not shy about airing his grievances.
"It's the same problem every night, I guess we gotta get some better players who can contain the basketball because right now, we can't," Malone said. "We're a bad basketball team, that's the bottom line."
Ouch. And it didn't stop there.
"I can't control the turnovers, I can't make the passes for them. At some point, these guys have got to take responsibility. Plenty of times this season I've put it on me and I'll do that, but I'll tell you what, each guy in that locker room has got to start looking in the mirror and owning up and taking responsibility for their play, and we don't have a lot of that right now," Malone continued.
Harsh, but true words. The Kings had 22 turnovers, 15 assists and couldn't stop anyone. As Tom pointed out earlier, the defense in the fourth quarter Monday night was atrocious, allowing 36 points.
Not stopping the ball has been a common theme this season, especially with any team's opposing guards. Opponents are shooting 40 percent from three on the Kings (47 percent overall) and they are allowing guys like Kyle Korver, who is a great shooter and shouldn't be left wide open, to match career highs in number of threes made. Earlier this month, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry combined for 64 points against the Kings' backcourt on 13-19 shooting from three.
On Monday, it wasn't a jump shooter that was torching them on defense; it was former King Tyreke Evans who looked like the Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans we all once knew here in Sacramento. He was slashing to the lane and getting to the basket at will on his way to 25 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
"I knew they didn't have any shot blockers so I was going to attack every chance I get," Evans told reporters after the game. "I heard Isaiah [Thomas] when I got the ball telling the guy what I was going to do, I did the same thing and still got to the basket."
Evans had himself a night and also had fond things to say about Sacramento, Kings fans and how there was nothing personal between him and the organization. But it was obvious he was out to prove something, and the Kings gave him a key to the door.
Even Pelicans center Anthony Davis was surprised at how easily Evans was able to do whatever he wanted on his way to the basket.
"They kept giving him open lanes, which I don't know how, they played with him the year before," Davis said.
If there is something positive to take out of all of this, it is the fact that the comments made by Malone after the game about the areas that need improving were very similar to what DeMarcus Cousins had to say, which shows there is some alignment of thinking there.
Cousins (who finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks) pointed to the total turnovers and allowing the Pelicans to convert off those turnovers. He also highlighted the number of points allowed in the fourth quarter (36), which is what Malone harped on in his post-game press conference.
And like Malone, Cousins seemed to have a tipping point with the rest of the team.
"It's the same s*** every night, I mean we break down defensively, we don't talk," a frustrated Cousins said.
When pressed further, Cousins said, "I won't say it's effort, but it's an excuse, ‘well this man didn't do that, so I couldn't do that' - it's excuses. Guard your man, do your f******* job."
And there it is. Two of the most important pieces of this franchise, the coach and the best player, aired their grievances.
Malone surely hasn't been able to be the agent of change and turn the defense around like he had hoped this season. So hopefully this Festivus ignites some sort of change amongst the players, and they begin buying in to the defensive principles Malone wants his team to play with.
Things don't get any easier on Friday when the Miami Heat come to town.
"My challenge to these guys is who do we want to be? Are we just going to be a team that wins once in a blue moon and comes out here and puts on a performance like that [Monday's loss]? I don't know," Malone said.
Here is Malone's entire press conference, captured by News10Sean.