Coming off the heels of three-straight losses in which the Sacramento Kings looked like a roster that had just gone through a gigantic mid-season overhaul, Dave Joerger went back to five OG Kings to start off tonights matchup with the Jazz.
Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Kosta Koufos, to be exact.
Oddly enough, the Kings looked like a coherent basketball team again! The OG Kings got off to a very solid start. I wouldn’t say the offense was humming, but it looked far more deliberate than it had in those three previous losses.
The Kings were moving with purpose. Ty Lawson and Darren Collison were finding both Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein early and often. Koufos, in particular, struggled to finish at the rim, and Rudy Gobert’s length will do that to anyone, but the Kings were getting a lot of good shots against a very good defense. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Buddy Hield was the first non-OG King to enter tonights game, and it didn’t take him long to get on the board with a couple of very professional looking threes.
It was great to see Garrett Temple out there again after destroying his hamstring several weeks ago. For as offensively challenged as the Kings can look at times, they have a few really nice defensive pieces and when they share the court, I do not envy opposing offenses.
It really was an excellent first half that could have been even better if the Kings hadn’t got the Jazz in the bonus so early in the second quarter. The defensive energy slowed down considerably for fear of letting Utah to the line, but the Kings responded to a 9-0 Jazz run admirably, and carried a 59-45 lead into the half.
As you can probably predict from a good team like the Jazz, they played noticeably better in the second half. The defensive pressure turned up, and the threes were flying. Just as it looked like Utah was about to take control of this game, the Kings went on another counter run.
The Jazz kept chipping away at the Kings’ near-double digit lead throughout the fourth quarter. It would have been hard to envision the Kings defeating the Jazz without having to close the game out in crunch time, and that is exactly how this thing played out. With the Kings struggling to find offense, Buddy Hield started to turn the ball over at an alarming rate. The Kings only had one turnover in the entire first half, and Hield would exit the game with five turnovers of his own, so, yeah. Not ideal.
A bunch of crunchtime nonsense ensued from there. Both the Kings and the Jazz had multiple opportunities to win this game in regulation, but the basketball gods wanted free basketball, so to overtime we went.
Overtime was a mess. Foul call after foul call after foul call. Just when it appeared as though two Willie Cauley-Stein missed free throws were going to cost the Kings the free throw contest overtime had become, George Hill missed two free throws of his own that could have put the Jazz up three with under 20 seconds remaining.
Lawson found Cauley-Stein on a roll, foul, and back to the free throw contest we go. To Cauley-Stein’s credit, he knocked down both free throws. Redemption! With the Kings up one and seconds remaining, Cauley-Stein got caught one-on-one with George Hill with a chance to end this game on defense. Willie defended it beautifully, but Rudy Gobert was all alone in the paint and got the tip-in dunk. It was originally called goaltending, but after official review, it was changed to a good basket and game over. The Kings got as close to winning as you can possibly get before losing. Kind of remarkable, really. Kings lose 110-109.
The officiating was atrocious tonight. It felt like every bad call went against the Kings, but I am nothing if not incredibly bias here. This is the perfect example of a loss that would infuriate me if the Kings were going to benefit from a win, but with the draft pick situation being what it is, I can’t manufacture that anger. It is what it is.