After dropping back-to-back games in Atlanta and Miami, the Sacramento Kings blew what should have been a much-needed road victory in Orlando tonight.
The final score was 102-94. Kings drop to 2-4 on the season.
On second thought, calling this a 'blown' game might be giving the Kings a little too much credit. 'Blown' carries with it a certain assumption that they, at one point, had it, and that wasn't really the case. The Magic tortured the Kings from the second quarter on, but the Kings decided that Orlando punching them in the face repeatedly wasn't quite enough punishment, and began punching themselves in the face throughout the fourth quarter, completely squandering an opportunity to steal this one on the road.
I'll try to hold my frustration in for a few minutes to talk about the actual game. No promises.
The first quarter featured an impressive, unbalanced offensive explosion courtesy of Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins and Gay scored the Kings' first 24 points with a little bit of everything. On one hand, you have to love the efficiancy and scoring prowess of those two when they're on. On the other hand, I don't know if the Kings are doing themselves any favors by relying on Cousins and Gay for as much offense as they do. On the other OTHER hand, this will hopefully balance itself out once Darren Collison returns.
Omri Casspi subbed in as the first King off the bench, which is notable because he missed the last two games with some kind of an illness, and prior to getting sick he wasn't exactly part of Dave Joerger's rotation, so, good to see him out there early and often. Casspi provided the Kings with a serviceable offensive lift off the bench, just doing what Omri Casspi does. Threes, running the floor, herky-jerky drives to the lane, etc. It was good to see him play, although there was certainly room for improvement. Maybe we'll call it court rust? He was getting a lot of good looks, but had a hard time finishing too many of them. I'm a Casspi truther, so take this with a grain of salt, but the fact that he was finding lanes to the hoop, running the floor, finding spots on the perimeter for open threes, etc. left me with a positive feeling about his ability to contribute this season. Again, shots didn't fall, but he was working hard for those open looks, and everything looked good up until the whole shot-making part. That'll come. I hope.
Orlando's bench unit gave them a huge lift in the second quarter, and the Kings could never really reverse that momentum shift. We didn't know it at the time, but that run was 'game over' for the Kings. As well as this very fun, young Orlando Magic team played, the Kings killed themselves tonight. I cannot stress that enough.
The Kings totally lost focus. More specifically, they started turning the ball over, and lost complete control of the glass. Rudy Gay never really found his offensive rhythm in the second half. Cousins scored a few tough buckets, but he didn't do enough to secure the win, either.
The Kings made this game so much more difficult than it needed to be. They'd go on a little run, then toss away a few careless turnovers. They'd hit a big three on offense, then surrender a wide-open three on the other end with poor defensive communication. They'd get an offensive rebound, then ruin the second chance opportunity with an offensive foul. You've seen it all before. This was old Kings basketball. Old, familiar Kings basketball.
On a bigger scale, this was a frightening loss. The Kings have been regressing defesively since they hit the east coast, and we saw the full relapse tonight. Bad. Bad. Bad.
I think Dave Joerger is starting to sense that slippage, too, because his rotations have been a bit erratic since the Atlanta game. He's clearly searching for something.
We saw a huge uptick in minutes for Casspi and Willie Cauley-Stein tonight. I thought Casspi looked fine. Willie had a few inspiring-at-best moments, but overall, it wasn't anything that would give me major confidence in him if I'm Mr. Joerger, but Joerger played Willie in crunch time over Kosta Koufos. He played Omri Casspi in the second half over Matt Barnes. Anthony Tolliver didn't touch the court tonight. There is a lot of shuffling going on right now, and I don't know if that's a good or bad thing, but it's where we are right now.
The Kings are facing a Milwaukee-to-Toronto back-to-back this weekend, and what was looking like a fairly 'easy' east coast trip is quickly turning into a key stretch for the Kings this season. I'm scared.