In a battle between two truly dramatic organizations, the Sacramento Kings found themselves in Chicago tonight to face the Bulls.
ICYMI - Rajon Rondo made it a point to slam the Kings for no apparent reason last week when he said that ‘you couldn’t name three people on my team’ in reference to last years’ Kings squad. I mention that here because heading into the game I was curious if that off-court nonsense would make its way onto the court in any way. It didn’t, mostly because Rondo is a non-factor in Chicago right now, but I digress.
Considering the fact that this was the second night of a pretty tough back-to-back set, I thought the Kings started the game off with the right amount of energy and focus. The Bulls ended the first quarter with a three point lead, but Garrett Temple was making Dwyane Wade work hard for his buckets, Koufos was providing some really nice help defense, and the offense, despite how little firepower it has right now, was doing enough.
Malachi Richardson even got a little first quarter burn. As Jerry Reynolds said, five first quarter minutes in a real game is more beneficial than ten minutes of garbage time. Richardson drilled a pullup jumper, and got to the line in his first stint. It was great to see him out there, and at no point did he look overmatched.
If the Kings struggled anywhere in the first half, it was defending the three-point line. The Bulls are the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA, but this is the Sacramento Kings we’re talking about here. It’s league policy that every team must shoot well above their season average when playing the Kings, and it’s been this way for years. As bad as the Kings’ perimeter defense can be, it’s just something about this team. Even when they close out hard on shooters and try to disrupt passing lanes that’ll lead to open threes, opposing teams still find a way to knock them down. It’d be impressive if it weren’t so depressing.
Dave Joerger gave us a little glimpse into the potential future with his second quarter unit. Richardson was still in there, Willie Cauley-Stein got some run, and what that crew lacked in polish, they made up for in energy. Yeah, Cauley-Stein still had some frustrating lapses on the glass, but he looked a bit more alert out there. Ty Lawson is still playing well, too, by the way. If nothing else, they were a fun group to watch. I haven’t had fun watching the Kings in quite a while, so it was a welcome change.
The Kings started the second half with the same focus we saw in the first quarter. Arron Afflalo knocked down a couple of threes, DeMarcus Cousins shot the ball exceptionally well thanks to some pretty questionable Robin Lopez defense. The Bulls hung in there, though. They never let the Kings pull away despite the fact that they were probably playing better basketball throughout tonights matchup.
Ty Lawson led the bench unit to a nice little 4th quarter lead. The backup point guard for a bad basketball team rarely gets any recognition, because of course he doesn’t, but Lawson is a good player again. I have no idea how that happened.
The Bulls went on one more late-fourth-quarter run, and with the game starting to slip away from the Kings, DeMarcus Cousins went on that miracle barrage of threes we’ve seen a few times this season.
The end of this game was all kind of screwy. Kings had the ball with under a minute remaining and the score was tied at 99, Wade came up with a great steal, but blew the open dunk attempt. The officials called a foul on said blown dunk attempt, and to say it was the worst foul call of the season would not be a stretch. Wade hit 1 of 2, giving the Bulls a 100-99 lead. The Kings had 14 seconds on the clock to win the game, and Cousins turned the ball over thanks to another great defensive play by Wade. Kings lose 102-99.
The terrible foul call on Wade’s dunk attempt will be the storyline from tonights game, but the Kings really let this one get away from them. I’m not excusing the officiating, it played a part in the loss, but the Kings didn’t execute their offense down the stretch after really playing a decent basketball game on the road. It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated. Your frustrated. We’re all frustrated.