After his team had embarrassing back-to-back losses in their opening two seeding games, it looked like the Kings finally found their mojo. Walton actually made an adjustment that paid early dividends when he inserted Cory Joseph into the starting lineup in place of Nemanja Bjelica, who has been a defensive liability.
Sacramento came out blazing in the first quarter, outscoring the Mavericks 37-27, marking the first time the Kings had a lead after the opening 12 minutes in three seeding games.
Things even looked good through three quarters. Sacramento had an 82-75 lead going into the final frame, and the numbers looked encouraging as well. The Kings had six fewer turnovers than the Mavericks and only trailed the total rebound count by three while holding Dallas to five makes on 28 attempts from the 3-point line.
Then came the fourth. Sacramento suddenly reverted to its bad habits from the first two seeding games. The Kings couldn’t defend, couldn’t rebound, and went ice cold on the offensive end.
The Mavericks outscored Sacramento 20-13 over the final 12 minutes, holding the Kings to just 5-for-23 shooting in the quarter, and outrebounded them 17-10. Still, the Kings had a chance to win on their final possession.
Bjelica collected a defensive rebound with 22.4 seconds left on the clock, and the score tied at 95. Usually in this situation, if a team has been rolling on the offensive end, coaches let them play it out. But, the Kings hadn’t scored a point in nearly five minutes.
Instead of taking a timeout, Walton let De’Aaron Fox wind the clock down to less than five seconds before taking a meaningful step to the hoop. No movement, no screen, nothing. The frustrating part is that Walton was a part of the Golden State Warriors’ coaching staff from 2014-2016.
One of the things Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was great at was setting up plays that got at least one his players an open look, especially coming out of a timeout. Usually, if their first option was taken away, Kerr had a counter ready. But, Walton just stood there and watched his team’s miserable final possession.
This has been a staple of his head coaching career. His offenses have no creativity or misdirections that require opposing defenders to make a decision. With the score tied at 102-102 in overtime, Joseph took a contested jumper with less than three seconds on the shot clock, another bad look at a pivotal time in the game.
Dallas came down to the other end, set up Luka Doncic in the post, and he delivered with an easy lay-up. Sacramento followed that up with a possession that saw Fox shoot another contested pull-up, and the Mavericks came back with a 3-pointer their next time down the floor. Even down by five, Walton’s play design coming out of the timeout saw Buddy Hield jack up a 3-pointer roughly three seconds into the shot clock, despite having 1:14 left in the game. There was no second option, no counter to if the Mavs adjusted to the play, nada.
Sacramento has some talented players on the roster, but they will never reach their potential as long as Walton is patrolling the sidelines.