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Kings 97, Pistons 103: New Year, Same Old Team

Sacramento's road struggles continue on into 2013 as Detroit played much more consistently throughout. Austin Daye hit a dagger three pointer with 11 seconds left to seal the deal.

Raj Mehta - USA Today

The Kings began their road trip off the same way they've done most of their road trips these past few years: with a loss. While they somehow found a way to get back into this game in the 4th quarter (more on that later), the Pistons simply were more consistent throughout.

The Kings actually got off to a really good start, particularly with their outside shooting. Sacramento has been red-hot from downtown lately, and nothing seemed to change in that first quarter with the Kings going 5 of 6 from three. Thanks to that hot shooting, they got out to an early late point lead, only to see it almost entirely evaporate by quarter's end. Brandon Knight was making mincemeat of the Kings defense.

The second quarter is where the Kings truly lost the game though. Without Marcus Thornton or Tyreke Evans available, small ball was almost inevitable. Unfortunately for the Kings, Detroit is rather big, particularly when they play a guy like Austin Daye at SG. Daye came out really strong in the second quarter being guarded by one of the Kings much smaller guards. Sacramento's offense couldn't really get anything going against excellent pressure by the Pistons. Then Charlie Villanueva started hitting everything from downtown and before you know it the Kings are down by 15 midway through the quarter after being up 1 point after the first. The starters came in and were able to hold down the fort, but it was still a ten point deficit at halftime.

Right near the end of the half, Charlie Villanueva caught Isaiah Thomas with a pretty unnecessary elbow as he drove to the basket and Isaiah quickly got up and went after Villanueva. Fortunately he was restrained by Brandon Knight and the referee and nothing more came of it. Villanueva was called for a Flagrant-2 and ejected. I'm actually quite surprised that upon review Isaiah did not get a technical for his reaction.

The third was a bit of a stalemate with the Kings hovering around the 10-13 point range but not getting much closer. The only thing that was really working for Sacramento in the third quarter was DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins, who had another excellent game, was both patient and methodical in the post, and got a lot of easy baskets that way on his way to a game-high 21 points. He was also excellent on the glass with 8 offensive and 14 total rebounds. The rest of the Kings had just 23 boards, nobody with more than 6.

The fourth quarter was just... weird. Coach Smart once again put the bench unit in to try to get something going, but this time added Travis Outlaw and kept Cousins in the middle. This lineup struggled as well and the Pistons got out to their biggest lead of 16 points with 8:18 left. Jason Thompson came in for DeMarcus after he picked up his 4th foul of the night.

This is about the time the comeback run started for Sacramento, and it was largely through some terrible offense that somehow worked and good defense. Aaron Brooks made a couple of difficult shots, and then Travis Outlaw passed open a easy jumper for a closer but more contested one that also went in, to cut it to 7 points. Will Bynum answered back with a three pointer, but Jimmer came right back and drilled a step-back three in Kyle Singler's face. Jimmer made another three pointer with 3:03 left to make it 94-93, and then a jumper at 2:30 to make it 95-96. This is about the time the law of averages kicked in and the bad basketball stopped working.

Out of the timeout, Coach Smart opted to put Cousins back in for Travis Outlaw but he kept everyone else out there. Isaiah Thomas remained on the bench throughout crunch time, a decision I feel helped cost the game considering Aaron Brooks made some particularly bonehead decisions late.

The first bad decision was a drive to the basket that was stymied and then a poor no look pass behind him to Jason Thompson, but the ball was too low and went through Thompson's leg to be snatched up by a diving Jason Maxiell. Maxiell gave the ball up to Brandon Knight and Cousins picked up his fifth foul trying to go for the steal in the backcourt, not a good decision given Knight's excellent free throw percentage. Knight did miss one Free Throw however and it was still a three point game. On the other end Jimmer Fredette took the ball right to the rack but his scoop layup attempt was short and bounced off the front rim.

With 53 seconds left and no fouls to give, Coach Smart called out "no foul! no foul!" wanting to try to get a stop and the ball back. Aaron Brooks however only heard "foul!" and promptly wrapped up Will Bynum to the disbelief of Smart. Bynum hit his free throws to make it a five point game, but it wasn't over yet. Brooks got to the line himself on a decent drive where he almost got a three-point play, but did convert his free throws to cut it back to three.

Lawrence Frank called a 20 sec. timeout to draw a play with 35 seconds left. He substituted Austin Daye, who had been very effective earlier, to create some spacing. Out of the timeout, the Kings defended the Pistons very well, almost forcing a shot-clock violation, but Prince saw Daye moving off the ball at the last second, found him, and Daye swished the three as the shot clock expired. There were still 11 seconds left in the game, but any hope the Kings had of winning the game went out the window with that three.

Free Throws proved to be the key down the stretch. Sacramento had gotten to the penalty early in the fourth, and it came back to bite them in the ass in the final few minutes, as all of Detroit's points in the last three minutes save for the final three came at the line.

Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons sat almost the entirety of the fourth quarter, much to my chagrin. Thomas and Salmons are probably the two best floor leaders the Kings have, and they were sitting on the bench as Sacramento's offense imploded trying to get the lead back. Smart was obviously trying to "ride the hot hand" but at some point you need to make adjustments to get your best players on the floor quicker. Both Thomas and Salmons have proved themselves to be very reliable in crunch time.

The ball movement that had been so great for the Kings at home was still there in spurts, but not as consistent. Another factor was simply that the Kings weren't lights out from three like they have been lately. They still shot a respectable 34.6%, but they were at an absurd 25 of 50 against the Knicks and Celtics. That wasn't going to last. They ended up with 19 assists to 13 turnovers.

The Kings won't have much time to worry about this loss though as they head over to Cleveland tomorrow. The Cavaliers are just 3-10 at home and will likely be out with a couple key players themselves in Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson. Still though, no game can be taken for granted when the Kings are involved, especially not road games.

Other Notes:

  • I do not like Detroit's PA Announcer. He likes to announce last names first and he also likes to speak one word at a time. One time he said "Outlaw. Travis. Travis Outlaw".
  • Jimmer seems to be well liked by his teammates. Every time he does a cool move or hits a big shot you see shots of the Kings bench with them up and celebrating.
  • Drummond has ridiculous athleticism. On a couple of his dunks it looked like he was jumping on a kiddie rim it was so easy for him.
  • I'm very surprised Lawrence Frank did not get a technical foul on the last Kings possession. For those that missed it, the Kings tried to run one more play while down six, and when they threw the ball in, the ball was deflected by Lawrence Frank's outstretched arm. It was unintentional and the refs called a delay of game. Smart thought it was deserving of a technical for coach interference, and so do I. The rulebook is a bit unclear though. I guess it makes up for when the Pistons trainer was called for a technical for rushing to an injured Brandon Knight while play was still going on though.
  • This is probably the first game where I've seen a ref go down with an injury. Leroy Richardson went down with a sprained ankle and a timeout had to be called, but he was able to walk it off. What happens if a ref does get injured and can't fight through it though? Do they have backup refs on hand? Do they just go ahead with two?
  • The announced attendance was 12,175. If there was even half that number actually in attendance, I'd be surprised.
  • Thomas Robinson should not ever try to create his own offense.
  • Nostradumbasses of the night were adamsite and eISAVinator with 5 points each.

For the opponent's perspective, visit Detroit Bad Boys

Final - 1.1.2013 1 2 3 4 Total
Sacramento Kings 28 20 19 30 97
Detroit Pistons 27 31 22 23 103

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