The Sacramento Kings have left the comfy confines of the Golden 1 Center for their first road trip of the season, and came out of the gates flat. The Atlanta Hawks are a quality, well-coached team, and to beat them on their own home floor requires good focus and execution. This game was there for the taking, as the the Hawks nursed a 90-88 lead with 7:45 remaining. But the Hawks dominated the down the stretch, and the Kings unraveled.
The Kings were led by another terrific game from Rudy Gay, who scored an efficient 22 points on 13 shots and five assists. DeMarcus Cousins really struggled tonight; the Hawks did a great job getting him off his spots, pushing him to the perimeter, and swarming the paint whenever he was there. Cousins scored 14 points on 16 shots with four turnovers. Matt Barnes and Ben McLemore provided some much-needed offense off the bench, with 14 and 12 points respectively.
The Hawks scored in their typical balanced fashion, with six players notching double-digit scoring nights. Dwight Howard scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. The Hawks destroyed the Kings on the glass, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds. The Kings also couldn’t avoid foul trouble; they were whistled for 34 total fouls, and no King had less than three except for Anthony Tolliver, resulting in 47 free throws for the Hawks. To be fair, 20 of those free throws were due to hacking Howard (of which he only hit 8), but even without the hacking the Kings were too undisciplined. The Kings tried to match the physicality of the Hawks defense (which is currently the best in the NBA), but just ended up fouling like crazy.
The Kings never truly got a foothold in this game. They were able to erase big Hawks lead early and even took the lead in the third quarter due to some hot three point shooting from Barnes and Tolliver, but down the stretch, they wilted. After closing to within two points at 90-88, the Kings shot 3/10 the rest of the way with four turnovers. Dennis Schroeder was big for the Hawks down the stretch, scoring seven points and dishing a couple assists to bury the Kings.
Basically, this game was a good barometer of where the Kings are at. Executing in crunch-time on the road against the Hawks and their tough defense is a daunting task for any team, but the Kings are still finding themselves as a unit. They just can’t afford the huge amount of fouls, turnovers, and offensive rebounds they conceded. Its not surprising that the result is what it is, but its also a good reality check for both the team and fans. This is going to be a process. Onto the observations!
- New coach, defensive system, new shooting guard, same old story about Kyle Korver getting loose on the Kings. Korver torched the Kings for 17 points, hitting 5/8 from three point range, most as the result of defensive breakdowns.
- Is it time to start worrying about Willie Cauley-Stein? He’s had massive issues all over the court, whether its defending without fouling (three fouls in 12 minutes), finishing in the paint (0/2 from the field), or rebounding (one rebound, none defensive). Perhaps playing with a more creative PG than Garrett Temple will help, but Willie looks lost and disinterested.
- Ben McLemore is a brand new player. Another great game from him tonight off the bench. He even went behind-the-back with his dribble in the paint... on purpose! Ben’s season averages are now up to double figures, at 10.3 points on 58 TS% in only 17.6 minutes a game. The SG situation between Arron Afflalo and McLemore will be interesting to monitor throughout the year if Ben doesn’t turn back into a pumpkin.
- Ty Lawson continues to be very impressive in the minutes he played, but unfortunately was limited by foul trouble. Today he was picking his spots effectively, scoring eight points on five shots with a 6:1 assist to turnover ratio. He almost singlehandedly shook the Kings out of their early game doldrums with a fun sequence where he drew a foul, grabbed an offensive rebound off the second missed free throw, assisted a three, stole the ball, and then assisted on a dunk.
- The Kings haven’t won in Atlanta since March of 2006.
The Kings next play tomorrow against the Miami Heat. For the opponent’s perspective, visit Peachtree Hoops