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Kings 91, Lakers 101: Kings go cold in second half

A nice half followed by a disastrous one

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings had a chance to get to the ever-elusive .500 mark tonight. But much like similar chances over the years, they fell flat on their face. This time, the opponent was the upstart Los Angeles Lakers, a team loaded with young talent and a promising young coach. In their first of many trips to the Golden 1 Center, the Lakers struck first against the Kings.

The game started about as well as you could hope; the Kings built a 19 point lead with 4:54 to go in the second quarter at 49-30. DeMarcus Cousins was spectacular during this stretch, efficiently scoring 16 of his game-high 28 points. The Kings feasted off of the Lakers’ turnovers, scoring 27 points off of 21 miscues, and hit 5/9 from the three point line.

Unfortunately, the rest of the game turned into a nightmare. For the last two-and-a-half quarters, the Lakers outscored the Kings 71-42. The Lakers stopped turning the ball over, forcing the Kings to play in the halfcourt. At first, the Kings missed some decent looks, but afterwards started pressing the issue, falling into their old bad habits of isolation basketball instead of playing off eachother. The Kings had 13 assists in the first 1.5 quarters of the game; that number fell to five the latter 2.5 quarters.

Last, the Kings got absolutely shredded on defense in the fourth quarter. The Lakers scored 31 points on a 132.9 offensive rating (that’s very bad). It was a team-wide defensive meltdown, but in particular the Lakers targeted Ty Lawson and Cousins in pick-and-roll play. Lawson was already struggling with D’Angelo Russell’s size, but in the fourth quarter he struggled to keep up with Lou Williams, who scored 13 points to pace the Lakers in the frame. It wasn’t completely Lawson’s fault; Cousins looked very sluggish defending the pick-and-roll and helping his guards off of screens as compared to the first half. It feels like the team hung its head because things weren’t going their way on offense. They were missing a ton of easy shots when they got them, executed poorly at other times, and that dark cloud seeped into the defensive end.

Regardless, the Kings are now facing a murderer’s row of upcoming teams including the Blazers, the Spurs, and the Clippers. They now stand at 4-6 on the season and things are pretty likely to get a lot worse in the short term.

Some observations:

  • Darren Collison missed nearly everything he put up, forced it at times on offense, but was still dishing nicely and playing solid defense. Dave Joerger decided to go to Lawson down the stretch, who was hitting his jumper tonight (11 points on 4/6 FG, 2/3 3P), and Collison wasn’t (6 points, 2/11 FG). That decision can be scrutinized to hell and back but I don’t think the answer was clear-cut either way.
  • On the other hand, it seems like Joerger has a bit of Mike Malone-itis when it comes to playing 5-man bench units together. The Collison/Garrett Temple/Matt Barnes/Anthony Tolliver/Willie Cauley-Stein lineup got roughly 10 minutes together in this game, and was -10. Any kind of lineup without either Cousins or Gay on the court should be a non-starter.
  • #RotationWatch continues, with Omri Casspi and Ben McLemore receiving DNP-CDs tonight.
  • Can we end the Matt Barnes, NBA quarterback, experiment? Feels like the last four or five times he’s aired it out he’s thrown it into double coverage and had it intercepted. His QB rating is in the gutter.
  • With Rudy Gay struggling, the Kings really needed a third scorer to step up. None did; only Lawson scored in double figures besides Cousins and Gay, and that was still only 11 points.

For the opponent’s perspective, visit Silver Screen and Roll