The Kings had multiple opportunities to gain an important boost in the win column tonight, but missed shots and poor execution down the stretch caused them to let a victory slip from their grasp.
For the second game in a row, Dave Joerger entrusted the starting shooting guard position to Ben McLemore. The kid from Kansas shared the court with the usual lineup of Collison, Gay, Cousins, and Koufos and didn’t disappoint with a 10 point (4/7 FG, 2/2 3PA) 5 rebound, and 2 assist outing.
The first quarter, like much of the game, was a back and forth affair as the lead bounced between both teams. Carmelo Anthony dominated the scoring sheet as he poured in 15 points on only 8 field goal attempts while DeMarcus Cousins led Sacramento with 9 points (3/7 FG) as well as 1 rebound, 4 assists, and 1 steal. The Kings got solid production from all of their starters as they took a 32-30 lead behind 11 assists on 12 made shots while only committing two turnovers.
The second quarter started out even more promising as the bench unit built a 48-39 advantage behind a barrage of three pointers from Anthony Tolliver (remember him?), Omri Casspi, and Garrett Temple. The “bench-a-teers” also brought in a ton of defensive effort and Temple once again demonstrated the tenacity that proves he isn’t playing nearly enough. Unfortunately, the starters came back into the game and dropped both the defensive focus as well as the willingness to share the rock. Both DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay were guilty of multiple iso-ball possessions and the lead disappeared by halftime. The Kings walked into the break down 54-53 as the Knicks went on a 13-3 run to end the second quarter due to a 5:14 field goal drought from the sluggish offense.
Sacramento couldn’t make up any ground in the third period. The Kings held New York to 24 points, but could only score 24 of their own. At one point, the Knicks seemed to be pulling away as they went up 69-62, but back-to-back steals from Darren Collison and Ben McLemore got the Kings right back into the contest. Similar to the end of the first half, Sacramento had a lapse on defense and allowed Lance Thomas to sink a three pointer with two seconds remaining.
Eight lead changes occurred in the fourth quarter alone. Both Dave Joerger and Jeff Hornacek let their benches carry them for the first few minutes to give their starters a rest. The closing groups came in with about eight minutes to go and the lead continued to flip-flop. A key turning point stemmed from the understandable decision to intentionally foul Joakim Noah with 2:09 remaining and a one point lead. Walking into the game, Noah was shooting a putrid 26% from the free throw line. Sadly, because of KANGZ, Noah sunk both attempts and the Kings never regained the lead.
The last minute played out like this: Rudy Gay missed an open 18 foot jump shot with 56 seconds remaining and Brandon Jennings missed a three pointer on the other end of the court. Boogie grabbed the board and worked his way through the Knicks’ defense, but he missed a point-blank layup with 21 seconds remaining. Darren Collison then fouled Jennings who proceeded to make both free throws with 19 seconds remaining, putting New York up 101-98. Surprisingly, the Kings went for the quick two pointer and DeMarcus made a layup with 15 ticks left on the clock. Carmelo Anthony made two free throws to put the Knicks back up by three. The Kings ran a bizarre play that saw Cousins almost turn the ball over, but they regained possession and called timeout. Somehow, even though every Kings fan begged Joerger not to do it, Rudy Gay settled for a deep, contested three pointer after going 0/4 from beyond the arc. A last second DeMarcus Cousins 60 foot heave bounced off the rim and the Kings walked away with another loss, dropping to 8-15 on the season.
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- Willie Cauley-Stein is back to being bad, unfocused Trill. He recorded 0 points (0/2 FG), 1 freaking rebound, 1 assist, 0 blocks, 0 steals, and 2 fouls in 12 minutes. He seems to have forgotten that he’s an athletic freak who can block shots. If WCS continues to struggle, the Kings need to look for a solution at power forward over the next few weeks.
- Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins were both extremely inefficient tonight. They combined to shoot 13/40 from the field and 0/11 from three point range. The King simply aren’t going to win many games when their two best offensive players aren’t producing.
- Arron Afflalo received his second DNP-CD in a row. Although Afflalo hasn’t played all that well, I think it’s a little unfair to take a guy from the starting lineup and shove him to the end of the rotation. He’s a perfect offensive option off of the bench.
- Matt Barnes wasn’t dressed to play, but it wasn’t for disciplinary reasons. In his pre-game presser, Coach discussed wanting to rest Barnes as “he isn’t a spring chicken”. The plan is to rest Matt every 3-4 games (or until he’s arrested).
- The bench was really, really good tonight as Anthony Tolliver was ready to play and Omri Casspi had another solid game. The second unit scored 31 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and dished out 12 assists. Overall, the Kings had 24 assists on 35 made field goals.