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Kings 104, Rockets 117: Rockets thrash Kings early

Another miserable first quarter leaves too big of a hole to dig out of

The Sacramento Kings can’t shake their early blues. In a quarter where they looked like they were still digesting a hearty Thanksgiving meal, the Houston Rockets ran roughshod all over the Kings and built a lead too big to surmount. Its becoming a theme for this team to get off to slow starts, and to be fair the Rockets were pretty hot, but they can’t shed all responsibility for the way they came out of the gates.

The first quarter was an utter nightmare. The Kings lost the quarter 38-19, and both the offense and the defense failed to show up. To be fair, the Rockets were scorching hot from three; when Patrick Beverly is hitting threes off the dribble, and Corey Brewer is hitting contested threes at all, you might as well just go home.

But the Kings did not do themselves any favors; there are ways to mitigate and limit the damage a hot shooting team inflicts, and the Kings failed to do that. Trevor Ariza was hot from three, and yet Rudy Gay continued to close out so casually. The Kings let the Rockets grab four offensive rebounds when they grabbed all of six defensive boards the entire quarter, and the Rockets were faster to loose balls they had to get. And the Kings offense was completely dead; both Gay (10 points) and Collison (8 points) were no-shows for the game, and chances are the Kings offense is not going to function when that happens. Add up all those factors and you have one epic buttkicking of a quarter.

The Rockets’ lead actually peaked at 29 in the second quarter, but the Kings stabilized themselves for the rest of the game and chipped away at the lead. The defense did improve; after the Rockets built their lead with 8:35 left in the second quarter, the Kings held the Rockets to 64 points on 41.8% shooting, worthy of a 94.3 defensive rating the rest of the way. But the Kings were in such a massive deficit that it takes both better defense and an offensive explosion to finish that comeback off. With Collison and Gay taking the night off, there simply wasn’t enough pop in the Kings offense to make it work.

The Kings made their final push in the fourth quarter behind an epic explosion by DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie scored 16 of his 32 points in the frame, and at one point hit four straight threes, even coming alive protecting the rim with 5 blocked shots. Unfortunately, James Harden was determined to close the game out; his 12 fourth quarter points kept the Kings at bay, never letting the Kings get any closer than eight points.

Basically, the Kings end their homestand at 2-3, and given the teams they faced, its not a horrible result. The Kings are at 6-10 and are possibly facing a season-defining roadtrip with some lower-seeded Eastern Conference teams making up the the bulk of the schedule. Onto some observations:

  • Omri Casspi got his first meaningful minutes in a long while, and was at least active. He helped a lot on the glass, and his defensive intensity was a stark contrast from Gay’s lackadaisical approach. He didn’t contribute much in terms of shooting and clumsily botched some plays, but at the very least he ran the whole time in full tilt.
  • Dave Joerger just can’t afford to keep Garrett Temple off the floor for too long. Temple was a huge part in the defense solidifying, playing some terrific individual defense on Harden and switching out to play everyone else as well.
  • Joerger doesn’t escape blame for starting Collison and Ty Lawson together. The lineup didn’t work well at all together. It wasn’t the only reason for the first quarter thrashing, but it certainly didn’t help matters.
  • Lawson didn’t play well next to Collison, but he had a decent game overall. After a shaky start, he became the de facto backup point guard and made a difference with his speed and scoring.
  • The Rockets shot an NBA record 50 (!!!!!) THREES tonight, hitting 42% of them. D’Antoni gonna D’Antoni.

For the opponents’ perspective, visit The Dream Shake