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Kings 108, Pistons 115: Kings can't dig out of early hole

Another lackluster start followed a furious rally only to fall short in the fourth

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings are playing out the string. In the past few weeks, slow starts have characterized their games, and staring into a big hole with nothing but pride at stake isn't exactly promising for competitive games. But like several times before, the Kings made a rally to try to get themselves into the game. It fell short again in the fourth due to some clutch shooting and playmaking from the Pistons guards.

The Kings fell behind in the first behind a barrage of the usual suspects: turnovers and poor three point defense. The Kings committed five first quarter turnovers leading to Pistons runouts. In the half-court, the Pistons challenged the Kings' lack of defense by moving the ball well and taking open shots when the the defender inevitably blew a rotation or sagged off a shooter. The Pistons put up 39 points and a 14 point lead in the first quarter on their way to a 67 point half with a 13 point lead.

Amazingly, the Kings made a game of it in the third. George Karl turned to Caron Butler at the small forward position, bumping Rudy Gay down to the four. It seems that the Kings' switch-heavy defense does much better when there are three wings on the floor at the same time; the Kings held the Pistons to only 20 points in the third behind a flurry of switches and good contests of three point shooters. They forced turnovers and got out in transition, which is basically oxygen for the Kings' offense. Butler had his best game in recent memory, sparking the Kings with 9 points off the bench.

In the late third and early fourth quarter, the Kings bench sparked that actually tied the game at 87. From then on, the teams went back and forth until about the 5 minute mark of the game. The key play of the game came with the Kings down 101-98, where an open three missed by Darren Collison led to a long rebound and a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three to put the Kings down six. The Kings called a timeout only to not run a play, leading to a Rondo bricked three off the dribble, and Caldwell-Pope would hit another three off an offensive rebound on the very next possession. The Kings couldn't make a dent in the lead after that. DeMarcus Cousins scored 8 of his game-high 31 points down the stretch, but some clutch shotmaking from Reggie Jackson kept the Kings at bay.

The Kings' next game is tomorrow against the Knicks. It will be interesting to see what kind of intensity we get out of the team.

Random Observations

  • James Anderson has been the butt of many jokes around these parts, but gotta give him credit for two straight solid outings. Today he scored 10 points shooting 50% from the field and 40% from three. That's basically all the Kings really need from the SG position. He did take a particularly atrocious three point attempt with the Kings barely holding on for dear life down the stretch of the fourth, so the anti-Anderson crowd has something to chew on there.
  • In the second half, the Kings started running some halfcourt offensive sets based out of HORNS, which is a first all season. More and more as the season has winded down, I've seen an attempt by the team to implement some decent halfcourt options. Seriously, plays like this are absolutely gorgeous; Karl is really, really good at drawing up plays, but just has refused to do it consistently over the course of the season, letting the team run loose in straight isolations.
  • The Kings really lack attention to detail defending cutters. This is the third straight game I've noticed several players getting beat backdoor, and that's nothing but a focus issue.
  • The Kings in 2013 selected Ben McLemore over Caldwell-Pope. Both play the same position, but it looks like KCP is leagues ahead of where McLemore is now.
  • It was really interesting to see Andre Drummond benched for Aron Baynes down the stretch of the fourth. Baynes had a key block against Rudy and dove in for a tip-in to put the Pistons up 11 with 50 seconds to go.

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