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Kings 107, Bulls 112: Too little, too late

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A complete meltdown led to a massive comeback which led to a complete meltdown. #KANGZ

Kimani Okearah

If you only got to watch one game of any NBA team to get an idea of what that team is about, Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls is the one you’d want to watch to get an idea about the Kings. It had everything: a slow start, a crazy comeback, Boogie tantrums, questionable rotation decisions, dumb passes, and a Kings loss against a team without their best player. This was the ultimate #KANGZ game.

As has been the case for so much of the season, the Kings got off to a slow start. It was even worse than usual as Sacramento scored just 11 points in the entire first quarter compared to 27 for the Bulls. The Kings were playing so bad even the Kings social media didn’t have much nice to say:

The bench came in and started off a bit slow themselves but they picked it up in the second quarter. Rookie Malachi Richardson came in and scored 7 points in the quarter, but also made some rookie mistakes on defense. The important thing though was that the bench unit, led by Ty Lawson, was showing some energy, although they weren’t able to stop the Bulls from scoring either. The Kings entered the half down 15.

You’d think that the Kings would look to come out of the half with much better energy after that terrible start but it was more of the same. Every starter, from DeMarcus Cousins to Darren Collison looked lethargic and apathetic. The 15 point halftime deficit grew to 27 before Coach Joerger saw enough and put in the bench again. Lawson and Matt Barnes came in and sparked this team again, slowly chipping away at Chicago’s lead. They ended up cutting that lead to just 16 going into the fourth.

The Kings played even better in the fourth quarter. Ty Lawson led the way for Sacramento and ended up finishing with a team-high (and season-high) 22 points and 7 assists off the bench. DeMarcus Cousins, who had been quiet all night, started getting involved in the offense. Darren Collison hit some big threes. Anthony Tolliver was cutting smartly and Matt Barnes was making some great passes. Dwyane Wade, who had a vintage performance and led the Bulls with 31 points in Jimmy Butler’s absence, kept the Kings at bay time after time, but Sacramento kept chipping away.

In the final minute of the fourth quarter, Michael Carter-Williams, who had a fantastic game with 21 points on 8-12 shooting, drove to the rim but was wrapped up by Ty Lawson for a jump ball. Coach Joerger made a snap substitution of Willie Cauley-Stein for Darren Collison and it worked out as Willie secured the jump ball and the Kings got the ball with a chance to tie the game at 107. On the ensuing possession, the Kings got the ball to Cousins at the elbow and he powered his way into the lane for a tough finish around Taj Gibson. Gibson picked up his 6th foul and the Kings had the chance to take their first lead with Boogie going to the line. Boogie missed the free throw and Chicago secured the rebound. With the game on the line, the ball went to Dwyane Wade. Matt Barnes defended it as well as you could, but Wade rose up and drilled the jumper to put the Bulls up 109-107 with 13 seconds left.

The game was far from over, but on the inbound play, Matt Barnes tried to get the ball to DeMarcus Cousins and Wade stole it away. Upon replay, it looked like Wade was holding onto Cousins’ jersey, but it wasn’t called and Wade dunked it at the other end to put Chicago up by four. The Kings came down and Cousins tried to draw a foul on a three and missed (a strategy he’s attempted multiple times this season at the ends of games but to no avail) and after the miss Cousins blew up on the officials (probably still upset about the no-call on Wade on the previous play) and was ejected from the game as it was his second technical of the game. For those keeping count, that puts Cousins at 16 techs on the season meaning he will be automatically suspended for Wednesday’s game unless the NBA rescinds one. That seems like an unlikely scenario as both techs tonight seemed well deserved (the first one involved Cousins pushing a Bulls assistant coach in a mini-scuffle. Rajon Rondo and Matt Barnes were also assessed technicals during the fray).

In the end, the Kings collapsed. Yes, there were some questionable calls during the stretch, and Chicago did outshoot the Kings from the line 31 to 16, but the Kings shot themselves in the foot with their lackadaisical play for most of the game. In the end, Sacramento has nobody to blame but themselves. The Kings now fall to 20-32 and will have to play host to one of the hottest teams in the league on Wednesday in the Boston Celtics.

Random Observations

  • That failed Kings comeback cost Malachi Richardson some playing time. The rookie looked like a rookie out there tonight, but I love his confidence attacking the rim. He should look to do that more often. On defense, he also showed a lot of great effort, particularly on one possession against Jerian Grant where he stuck with him the whole way, but then bit on a fake and sent Grant to the line. He’s not there yet, but I could see him becoming a good defender one day, the effort is there and that’s half the work.
  • Nikola Mirotic is not bashful about shooting the ball. Despite not shooting very well, he kept on chucking up threes and long jumpers. He finished 3-11 on the night and 3-9 from three.
  • If anyone out there is keeping a stat of how many times a team fouls three point shooters, please let me know. The Kings have to be near the top. Tonight, Darren Collison did it twice, including once for a four-point play.
  • After complimenting Ben McLemore on his play the last two games, bad Ben reared his head once more. McLemore looked lost on both ends of the court and finished 1-6 from the field. Many of his shots were completely wide open and uncontested. McLemore’s unreliability is the biggest reason he hasn’t been able to find his place in the league. You need to be able to have guys count on you and McLemore has not earned that trust.
  • If the Kings want evidence as to why a playoff run is futile, it’s performances like these.
  • Jerian Grant is destined to become a Sacramento King, if only because he’s Jerry Reynold’s favorite player since his name is literally “Jerry an’ Grant”

For the opponent’s perspective, visit Blog a Bull. Full boxscore can be found here.