This was the cliched game that you could say both teams wanted to lose, but the Sacramento Kings were the more win-averse team tonight. The Washington Wizards outlasted the Kings in this sloppy, awful “battle”. Be sure to wash your eyes out with water if you watched this one, and if you didn’t, delete it off your DVR and don’t look back.
The Kings were led by DeMarcus Cousins putting up big raw numbers to keep the team in the game. Cousins scored 36 points (16/34 FG, 1/6 3P) but was not efficient because of an uncharacteristically awful 3/10 from the free throw line. Rudy Gay started slow, came alive for a short time in the third quarter, but then fizzled out again, finishing with 18 points (7/16 FG, 1/4 3P) and 6 turnovers.
Like I’ve mentioned before, the Kings aren’t going to win many games where both Collison and Gay are no-shows. The Kings offense devolved into way too much isolation basketball tonight, getting very little ball or player movement to generate good looks. The Kings frequently relied on Cousins or Gay to bail the offense out with heroball shots, and that’s just simply not going to get it done. Isoball also tends to mute the effect that Collison has on the game, who never really looked comfortable getting into any offensive rhythm. Collison is too important as a scorer to this team to be shut out.
For the Wizards, Bradley Beal was the main stalwart. Beal scored 31 points (12/24 FG, 7/13 3P) to torch the Kings, doing a masterful job scoring off of screens. Arron Afflalo got completely wrecked trying to chase Beal off those screens, where his lack of footspeed becomes a major problem. Other than that, the Kings’ defense was pretty good tonight, allowing a defensive rating of only 92.3. The Kings did a nice job defending John Wall, forcing the talented lead guard into an 11 turnover night, which is a career high.
Through the slop, the Kings and Wizards were all locked up at the end of regulation and you can’t say the Kings didn’t have their chances to win. Unfortunately, the team went cold to start overtime, failing to score at all until there was 16 seconds left and the game was out of reach. The Wizards didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard in overtime, but they didn’t have to.
All-in-all, winning back-to-back on the road is not easy in this league, and the Kings were not good enough to do it tonight. They fall to 7-11 on the season and 1-1 on this soft Eastern Conference road trip. The next few games will be telling; they play Philadelphia on Wednesday, Boston on Friday, and New York on Sunday. They can make up some real ground or fall further into the sinkhole of the bottom of the Western Conference. Some Observations:
- Plenty of blame to go around here in this one. Dave Joerger gets an F for managing the rotation in the second half. First for going once again to the slow-as-molasses starting lineup that features both Arron Afflalo and Kosta Koufos next to Cousins, Collison, and Gay instead of Matt Barnes and Garrett Temple. Usually, Joerger has managed the rotation and gone small, but tonight he stuck with that slow, space-less lineup for the entire third quarter. And then he compounded the mistake by running a five-man bench unit of Lawson/Temple/Casspi/Barnes/Cauley-Stein from the 10 minute mark to approximately the 4 minute mark. During that time, the Wizards built an 8 point lead. The finishing lineup of Collison/Temple/Gay/Barnes/Cousins stormed back on the strength of Cousins going King Kong in the paint to tie the game and send it into overtime, but you have to wonder if they would have been able to close the game out in regulation had the rotation been more balanced. Simply awful game management from the coach in this one.
- That being said, in overtime it was all on the guys on the court. The defense was fine with Temple and Collison in the backcourt, but the offense completely died. Collison was not a factor all night and that continued in OT, Gay was completely cold, and Cousins didn’t get a good look the entire period. Meanwhile, the Wizards grabbed two huge offensive rebounds right between multiple Kings. Perhaps they ran out of gas, but they had a shot to come out with a win and didn’t. This is the NBA, the schedule is not an excuse.
- Ty Lawson was a really nice spark off the bench at backup PG. It seems that with a smaller lineup and with one of Cousins or Gay off the court, Lawson has more of a green light to shoot and create for himself. So far, the backup role is suiting him nicely.
- Willie Cauley-Stein got a surprising stint tonight after being MIA for a few games, and it was fairly eventful. He showed off some surprisingly good touch around the rim and was at least active on defense getting deflections. But he also botched an alley-oop and bobbled another pass that would have been a sure dunk. He was customarily losing rebound battles to the Wizards left and right, continuing an alarming trend. I think that he just has horrible hands. He gets his hands onto loose balls but can’t ever corral them, not to mention the ugly botched passes.
- I can’t say this enough times: Temple needs to start. His three point shooting has come back down to earth, but Afflalo’s has fell off a cliff. His defense is a game-changer, especially when facing the slew of talented guards the NBA has to offer. The Kings’ starters are by far the slowest in the league when Afflalo, Gay, and Cousins are on the court together, and its not even particularly close. In this league where speed kills, that’s going to sink you more often than not. The slow starts plaguing this team are not some mysterious phenomenon. The Kings are simply not playing their most balanced lineup at critical junctures of the game.
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