After losing control of the game against the Chicago Bulls just a couple nights ago in the fourth quarter, the Sacramento Kings believed that the fans didn't quite get the message. So in an emphatic showing, the team went for an encore tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves, falling behind in the fourth quarter on the strength of a Timberwolves 17-6 run. The Kings saw a two point deficit balloon all the way to 12, and that was all she wrote.
Rajon Rondo was the only King with a good game going on the offensive end. Rondo was ultra aggressive looking for his shot with DeMarcus Cousins in street clothes, and thankfully he was scoring well otherwise this would have been a blowout. Rondo scored an efficient 25 points on 16 points, even hitting a couple three pointers at a 50% clip. This came alongside his customary high-assist and high-turnover production. Marco Belinelli also scored 14 points at an acceptable efficiency.
But that's pretty much the end of the bright side on offense. The Kings' offense was terrible overall, notching a 99.9 offensive rating against a defense that ranks fourth worst in the NBA. Once again, the offense in the halfcourt was terribly drab and predictable. The Kings ran a pick-and-roll between Rondo and Kosta Koufos so many times I lost count, force feeding the ball into Koufos who simply lacks the offensive talent to be the main roll man. Koufos shot 7/16 overall, and nearly all of those makes came off of offensive rebound tipins and garbage baskets. But the Kings went back to that same play again and again and again. Rudy Gay also struggled, but as usual the Kings run anything to get him good position on the block or any easy baskets. It was straight isolation every single time, which played right into the hands of Andrew Wiggins and his world-class athleticism.
Meanwhile, on defense, it seems like when the Kings identify a player who struggles to shoot, their gameplan consists of leaving them wide open and letting them take a practice shot. In the first half it was Ricky Rubio (although much of Rubio's production could be attributed to lazy defense from Rondo, which got better in the second half), and in the second it was Zach LaVine. LaVine went bonkers in the second half with 23 points, hitting four three pointers. Half of the problem admittedly was trying to defend him with Belinelli, who probably has less than half the speed and leaping ability of LaVine, but repeatedly going under screens helped LaVine get clean looks too consistently.
With only ten games left in this truly bizarre season, things seem to be fizzling down at the end. There's no more drama left on or off the court, just a strange sense of lifelessness. Its actually not unlike a 9-5 desk job, counting down the days until the weekend. The Kings next game is Friday against Phoenix.
- With another loss without Boogie, the Kings are now 2-9 this season without DeMarcus Cousins, 6-17 last year, and 13-42 since he was drafted here.
- The Darren Collison Brainfart Tracker™ went off today when DC (after making a nice defensive play, mind you) wildly dribbled across the entire court instead of just picking the ball up, never really getting control of the ball and ending up out of bounds
- I liked the stint Willie Cauley-Stein had tonight. He played some solid defense whenever he had to, including one possession when he got switched out on Wiggins (unfortunately getting called for a ticky tack foul at the end). Given that Towns was destroying Koufos all night with his speed, it would have been a great time to go to Cauley-Stein at C down the stretch. But alas, it was not to be.
- Speakng of Towns, this kid is spectacular. Koufos is a good defender and KAT straight wrecked him all night long in all kinds of ways, from midrange jumpers, running out in transition, and even driving-and-dishing to his frontcourt partner. He's going to be a nightmare in the Western Conference for years to come.
- Another Timberwolf I was really impressed with Gorgui Dieng. He was really solid with his jumper and made some two brilliant instinctual passes, one an alley oop to Towns in the half court and another quick tap pass in transition for a dunk.
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