When DeMarcus Cousins was announced to miss this game, many were still optimistic that the Sacramento Kings' newfound depth would be able to tide them over until the All-Star comes back.
It was same-old, same-old. No Cousins meant that not only did the offense die for unacceptably long periods of time, the defense was unable to corral anything the Grizzlies were trying to do. It seems that the Kings' strategy was to take away threes and points around the rim, which led to one open midrange jumper after another. Its a sound strategy in principle but the Grizzlies were getting shots they would put up in an empty gym during practice.
And this is a Grizzlies team that lost All-NBA center Marc Gasol in the first quarter. In his stead, Zach Randolph came alive and had a vintage performance, stepping in with 20 points and 11 rebounds on 9/14 shooting. Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein were tasked with covering him, giving him open midrange jumpers Zbo probably hits in his sleep. Memphis was extremely effective getting Mike Conley and Courtney Leee open off of screens, both on-the-ball and off-the-ball; again, the strategy was probably to sag off into the paint and let them take the jumpers. At a certain point you have to make them take contested jumpers. Each Memphis guard chipped in 14 points on really efficient percentages.
For the Kings, Rudy Gay led the way with 19 points, but his offense came in inconsistent spurts. Darren Collison was another bright spot off the bench with 18 points. But the rest of the team was rather dreadful. Rajon Rondo had a horrifying time scoring the ball in the paint with how clogged it was. And Ben McLemore had maybe the worst night of his career, being completely invisible in the first half and missing everything else in the second. Marco Belinelli was largely erased by Matt Barnes, being unable to shake the pesky defender with shot fakes, although he did make a few nice plays off the dribble.
The Kings play again tomorrow against Phoenix, but tonight's effort was highly concerning. Not only does the defense need a LOT of work to sharpen up, replacing Cousins' production on offense remains a huge question mark. The Kings need answers and quick because in the brutal Western Conference there isn't much chance to stop and catch your breath.