The Sacramento Kings are sinking. There are still 23 games left in this season, but the Kings are going in the opposite direction from the playoffs and seem destined to be locked into the spot they are in now. With tonight's loss, they remain 3.5 games behind Utah for 9th place and 4 games behind Houston for the 8th and final Playoff spot. On the flipside of the coin, they just passed Milwaukee for 9th worst record in the league, which is just bad enough to keep the pick they owe to Chicago.
The saddest part is that they are dying because of largely the same reasons they have all season. Today's game against Oklahoma City wasn't really all that different from anything we've been watching all year, which is a disappointment because there were promises of change after the All-Star break.
It really starts and ends with the defense; the scheme hasn't changed one iota and the Kings are still being shredded in the most depressingly predictable ways. Its been over a month since the Kings have held a team under 100 points, January 23rd against the Pacers. Since then, the Kings have surrendered 129, 112, 114, 121, 104, 107, 128, 128, 120, 110, 110, 110, 108, 117, and now a season worst 131 points to their opponent.
The problems with the scheme are boring at this point. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook still effortlessly danced around it at will, but as usual the killer was the Thunder as a team knocking down 14/34 of their three pointers against the Kings sagging deep into the paint. Enes Kanter settled into the holes in the Kings' zone scheme and was a couple field goals away from an NBA record for perfection from the field by going 11/11 for 23 points. To top it off, Dion Waiters rubbed salt in the wounds by burying the same unguardable fadeaways he's been clanking all year with 22 points off the bench.
On offense, as usual DeMarcus Cousins inefficiently put up huge stats going one-on-one against the athletic Oklahoma City interior defense. 35 points and 12 rebounds is certainly notable, but having to put up 33 shots to get there puts a damper on the performance. Rajon Rondo as usual flirted with a triple double with 11 points 12 assists and 9 rebounds, but par the course for the season was embarrassing on defense. Omri Casspi and Ben McLemore did their jobs scoring the ball with 16 and 14 points respectively, shooting a combined 4/9 from three point range. The Kings offense was greased by 21 Oklahoma City turnovers, which is welcome because their halfcourt offense still leaves much to be desired.
The Kings have now lost three straight and are still staring down the remainder of their season-defining gauntlet, with Memphis, Dallas, and San Antonio on deck. If they aren't going to change the defensive scheme, you can forget about any shot at the playoffs; the best you can hope for is to escape the season with some shred of dignity left in tact.
- The Kings were whistled for FOUR delay of game calls, two which came in rapid succession when Rondo refused to accept the ball from the referee to inbound, and one for some bizarre reason when Steven Adams hugged Cousins' ankle, while the ball was in play. This has been the weirdest Kings season I've ever seen; it seems like every game I'm commenting on how bizarre the game is.
- George Karl let Wllie Cauley-Stein have his hand at guarding Durant one-on-one when the Thunder went small and put KD at PF. I liked the job Willie was doing, although he still hasn't quite kicked the habit of sagging off of the jumper.
- I don't know why James Anderson got the start. I don't think he does anything better than Casspi, not even his overrated perimeter defense. Anderson also makes a habit of making at least one or two plays a game where you just wonder how this guy has a job in the NBA. Tonight it was a completely botched layup that high schoolers convert without issues.
- Cousins is quickly piling on some serious wear and tear on his body. Tonight, he banged knees with Westbrook a couple times, he got one ankle twisted and taped up before coming back in, and got his other ankle stuck in a Steven Adams bear trap from the floor. And yet, there he was on the floor with five minutes left in the game and with Oklahoma City all but officially wrapped up the win. I don't know if it was Karl's decision to leave him in or just Boogie being stubborn, but its time to be much smarter with his minutes.
- Elsewhere in the NBA, the Clippers unveiled their new mascot, Chuck the Condor. I have no idea how condors are related to anything nautical, but its really not surprising that the Clippers marketing department has rolled out something terrible.
I heard if you say "James Anderson" three times while looking into a mirror, he appears and just starts defending the crap out of you.— Sactown Royalty (@sactownroyalty) March 1, 2016