The Kings are in Miami tonight for their second game of a five game road trip, which also happens to be the second night of a back-to-back set that started with a discouraging 103-97 loss to the Atlanta Hawks last night.
There is nothing wrong about losing to the Atlanta Hawks on the road, but what caught my attention was how fragile the state of this team still is. Despite riding a three-game win streak heading into last nights loss, Karl switched his starting lineup by bumping Willie Cauley-Stein to the bench (and purgatory, for all intents and purposes, as he went from second big to fourth big) in favor of Quincy Acy. Everyone likes Acy, it’s impossible not to, and this isn’t about him. It’s about Karl, it’s about his incessant need to tinker, and it’s about how unstable everything involving this team looks from the outside.
The good news is that Karl alluded to Acy starting again tonight, so, hey! There is some consistency (sarcasm emoji).
Karl said his "gut" feeling is Quincy Acy brings good energy and should start more against the likes of Millsap, Bosh, etc.— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) November 19, 2015
The Kings looked frustrated last night, and it wasn't a slow-building type of frustration. It was oddly immediate. DeMarcus Cousins took a shot at Al Horford in the first quarter that could have got him ejected, but went uncalled. He took another shot at Lamar Patterson in the second half that didn’t look great, either, and I would be fairly surprised if Cousins isn’t suspended for tonight’s game against the Miami Heat. It’s very likely that the Kings will be using their 10th different starting lineup in 13 games, which is simply astounding.
Kings' DeMarcus Cousins elbow to Hawks' Al Horford pic.twitter.com/qpiWbbaxu6— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 19, 2015
But it wasn't just Cousins' elbows. Gay played with some next-level tunnel vision. The Kings tried some funky matchups defensively, and played entirely too lethargic on defense to successful employ their switching scheme. Cousins was pretty upset at Gay's efforts on one particular defensive switch, and to play body language doctor for a minute - I just didn't like how the team looked. Rajon Rondo was chucking the ball all over the arena (in some instances, literally) and this kind of performance for the Kings, on the road, desperate for a win, simply cannot continue.
The Miami Heat are 6-4 on the young season, and currently boast the second best defense in the entire NBA. Hassan Whiteside is averaging a truly absurd 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per game shooting 63% from the field. Read that again. Unreal. It’s a shame Cousins (likely) won’t be around to remind him who the All-Star center is.
If the Kings’ defensive efforts on other three-point shooting power forwards continues tonight, Chris Bosh is going to have a field day in this one. Outside of Bosh, the Heat aren't a very good three-point shooting team, and that plays into the Kings' strengths (or weaknesses, depending on how you look at it) defensively. They don't shoot a lot of threes, and when they do, they don't go in. Music to the Kings' ears.
This is an extremely simplistic and quite obvious statement to make, but if Cousins plays tonight, and the Kings do the opposite of what they did in Atlanta last night, this is a winnable game. Miami is good, but their guard play hasn’t been, and I like how Rondo, McLemore, and Gay matchup with Dragic, Wade, and Deng considering Dragic and Wade haven't been Dragic and Wade this season. If Cousins isn’t there, though, Whiteside and Bosh are going to be a problem, and the Heat are going to have a huge advantage in the frontcourt.
The Kings haven't shown anything to suggest that they can play winning basketball without DeMarcus Cousins, which only highlights how irresponsible his elbows were last night. If the NBA is lenient, I like how the Kings matchup with this team outside of Bosh, if Cousins is out, I can't pretend like I think the Kings are going to win this game on the road.