This team has talent. I swear. I've seen it. You've probably seen it. But matching up against the Boston Celtics, a team that has lost four in a row and is among the worst in the league defensively, the Sacramento Kings laid one giant egg on both ends of the floor, getting destroyed 106-84.
In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out that this was a game that started at 10:00 AM on the West Coast, a completely bizarre scheduling anomaly for a Wednesday. The bad shooting was understandable, and man was it atrocious. As a team, the Kings shot 36.8% from the field, including 13% from three with only 12 total assists. DeMarcus Cousins shot 5/17, Rudy Gay shot 4/19 and Darren Collison shot 4/10. And most of these shots were quality looks. The only starter to show any life offensively was Ben McLemore, who played limited minutes because of foul trouble. The offense just could not get anything going consistently from the perimeter.
But the early start excuse only goes so far. When a team struggles from the perimeter, there are options available to stay in a game. You need to attack the rim and lock down defensively. While the Kings felt like they did not get the benefit of the call, they did get to the free throw line 28 times, but only shot 64% when there. And the team still settled for far too many midrange jumpers when it was clear that well was dry.
The defense was also quite awful for majority of the game. The Celtics shot 46.8% from the field and racked up 32 assists. There are two main issues defensively. First is that the team is not closing out on shooters aggressively enough. Its not enough for the team to allow a midrange jumper, if the jump shot is uncontested like it has been so often, NBA teams will make you pay. This is usually the cause of two things; either players are not trusting the rotations behind them, or there simply isn't enough urgency for guys to give a full effort and lay themselves out defensively.
The second issue is that the Kings are not shutting off the passing lanes. The rotations are usually where they need to be, but good defensive teams cut off options for the defensive player, making them hesitate and second-guess. The Celtics whipped the ball surgically far too easily with little challenge from the Kings. Those passes are ripe for the picking, and if the defense starts to force some turnovers on those high-risk passes, the offensive players become gun-shy in trying them. Right now, its way too easy to cut through the Kings' rotations with pocket and cross-court passes. The results truly speak for themselves.
Another mystery in this game was the demotion of Jason Thompson from starter to DNP-CD. Ryan Hollins got the start and put up a JT-like statline of 4 points 3 rebounds in 11 minutes. Its unclear why he has vanished from the rotation so suddenly, whether its another directive from management or if its Tyrone Corbin ad-libbing on the fly.
The Kings have now lost 9 of their last 11 games and stumble into 2015 with yet another loss. The frustration is slowly giving way to numbness on the players' faces. Cousins was ejected with two technical fouls after only one technical the entire season to date. But the team looks beaten and lifeless. There's no easy answers right now; nobody knows what will spark this team to life again back to the intensity levels they showed in November. With Corbin signed for the rest of the year and no new coaching hire to serve as rescuing cavalry, management needs to find a way to shake things up. The team needs a defibrillator and fast. This road trip can still be salvaged, with a game against Minnesota tomorrow and Detroit on Sunday, but this is rapidly becoming yet another lost season in Sacramento.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Celtics Blog