The Kings are a team that just can’t seem to get out of their own way. After winning six out of seven games to gain the eighth seed, Sacramento has now lost four out of five and has surrendered their grasp on the last playoff spot to the Portland Trailblazers. If this team continues to perform this poorly in important games, the Kings will find themselves fighting for lottery position instead of the post-season.
Dave Joerger finally ended the ineffective Ben McLemore and Kosta Koufos experiment and instead started Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, and DeMarcus Cousins. The smaller lineup had much cleaner spacing and the Kings jumped out to an encouraging 24-13 lead early in the game. The quarter closed with a 29-19 difference behind an efficient DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. The Kings shot 12/24 from the floor and the ball was zipping around the court to open shooters. Even when jumpers were missed, they were generally quality shots and Sacramento looked like a team ready to compete with the big boys.
In the second quarter, the Kings shooting was as cold as a well digger’s butt and the offense grew uglier than a Brad Geiser selfie. Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins both sat to start the second period and any semblance of a talented team disappeared. Austin Rivers and J.J. Redick ran all over the Kings guards to combine for 20 points while Sacramento only averaged one point per minute for the quarter. The lack of shot-making was only compounded by the absence of hustle and boxing out the opponent. Los Angeles grabbed seven offensive rebounds in twelve minutes and by the end of the quarter, fans were booing the lack of effort. After leading by 14 points in the first quarter, Sacramento walked into halftime down 53-41.
The same starters began the second half and the Kings immediately began to chip away at the 12 point deficit. Rudy Gay, Darren Collison, and DeMarcus Cousins carried th offensive burden early in the quarter and Los Angeles slowly saw their lead begin to evaporate. The dual point guard lineup of Lawson and Collison gave the Clippers trouble on the defensive end. Neither Chris Paul nor J.J. Redick was quick enough to stay with Ty and he was able to drive and dish the ball effectively. Boogie scored 11 points and dished out 3 assists to bring the Kings back into the game. DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins were both called for technical fouls, Jordan for taunting and DeMarcus for complaining. Sacramento completely outplayed Los Angeles and the Kings won the quarter 32-22.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth contest as the Clippers couldn’t pull away and the Kings couldn’t quite grab the lead. Sacramento pulled to within a point or two multiple times, but untimely turnovers and predictable offense ruined any chance of a completed comeback. DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay weren’t able to get their games going, but thankfully the Kings starting guards stepped up. Darren Collison and Ty Lawson scored 14 of Sacramento’s 25 points, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Here’s the summation of the last minute of the game:
Darren Collison makes two free throws with 56 seconds remaining to pull the Kings within two points, 100-98.
Chris Paul attempts to drive the ball and turns it over! Kings ball with 40.2 seconds left.
The obvious strategy is to go for a two-for-one situation, so that even if you miss, you can play defense anddon’t have to foul. Instead, the Kings burned valuable time dribbling the ball around the perimeter and DeMarcus Cousins turned the ball over with 23 seconds remaining.
The Kings are forced to foul, the Clippers hit their free throws and that’s your game, folks.
I don’t know if the late game troubles are the fault of Dave Joerger’s game planning or player execution, but every opponent knows exactly what’s going to happen in those situations. Either Rudy Gay or DeMarcus is going to get the ball and is going to take the defense on, one on five. It would behoove the Kings to run a decoy play and let Darren Collison or another shooter take the final shot.
- Ben McLemore’s career is seemingly over with the Kings. After an embarrassingly inept six minutes on Wednesday night, Ben didn’t see a single second tonight. Clearly, Garrett Temple and Arron Afflalo are ahead of him in the lineup and Malachi Richardson probably passed him up as well.
- The small ball starters also affected Willie Cauley-Stein’s minutes. With Koufos now in his rightful role as a backup center and Tolliver coming off of the bench as a stretch four, Mr. Trill didn’t enter the game.
- Omri Casspi also received a DNP-CD. I’m not sure what the Kings can do with him at this point as he’s clearly out of the rotation, but Sacramento can’t afford to trade him if they’re also dealing Rudy Gay.
- Boogie dominated the box score tonight, he either led or tied for the lead in Kings points, FGA, FGM, 3 PA, 3PM, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, blocks, turnovers, and fouls. Although he was the best player on the team, Boogie also looked a step slow throughout the night, especially on the defensive end. He consistently over helped against driving guards or over hedged on screen and rolls and gave up mutliple dunks and and-ones.
- Austin Rivers was stellar tonight scoring 24 points on 9/15 FG while grabbing 6 rebounds and dishing out 2 assists. If the Rudy Gay market isn’t very attractive, the Clippers could move Rivers to the Kings for small forward help.
- Garrett Temple has one of the cleanest beard games in the NBA.