(Programming Note: I have no idea what happened to the Kings-Rockets recap. Usually, I write the articles in Word and then copy them over to the website but for some reason [laziness] I just wrote it in the website. Well, that was a mistake because I posted it, went to bed, and woke up to it being gone. But now we’re back on track.)
“We’re going streaking!”
After winning four straight games without their top scorer (and the top scorer in the league), the Sacramento Kings have now lost four straight to drop three games below .500 as they return home from a winless road trip. While this is probably disappointing and frustrating to Kings fans, it should have probably been somewhat expected.
The Kings are the third youngest team in the league. When you have a young team like this, you hope for them to defend their home court with vigor and pray they show up and compete on the road. And for the most part, they did that on this little three-game roadie. They played sloppily against the Mavericks and Rockets but “played the full 48 minutes” (as you probably heard Peaches incessantly repeat away from Arco this week) in each contest. And against Memphis, the Kings looked lethargic and exhausted from being out on the road so long. However, they did compete for the most part when they weren’t making terrible decisions with the basketball.
So how did the Kings lose this game against a team you’d like to see them steal a victory from on the road?
Well first and foremost, let me talk about the officiating for a minute. I HATE complaining about officials. I really do. I find it to be such a copout when teams and their fans blame a loss on the officials. Sure, there is always going to be human error in NBA officiating until the world is over run by robots in 2014. And I’m fine with that because I think for the most part, the referees (outside of Violet Palmer) do a good job of calling a game that you and I would be atrocious at officiating.
However, what we saw in this game in Memphis was really bad. Leon Wood, Scott Foster, and Sean Wright were your officials and they did a horrible job at calling this game. They were more sensitive than a 12-year old girl who is trying to explain to her parents why it’s unfair she doesn’t get to go see the midnight showing of the new Twilight movie. I’d like to say the officiating was bad on both sides, because for a while it was, but the Kings really got screwed overall.
After Jason Thompson picked up his second foul (an awful call by the way) with 2:29 left in the first quarter, he pleaded with the officials to let him play. And that embodied the frustration from the Kings side of this game – the refs didn’t let them play. They had quick whistles with any contact inside. They called a couple of phantom travel calls against Sacramento. They gave Omri Casspi his second technical foul of the game because Jamaal Tinsley (I know; I had no clue he was still alive either) grabbed his arm, wouldn’t let go, and Casspi tried to shake free. Overall, the Grizzlies went to the free throw line 42 times to the Kings’ 23. There was just flat out HORRIBLE officiating in this game and the NBA needs to discipline these refs for it.
Outside of the refs, the Kings were really sloppy once again. They compiled at least 20 turnovers for the fifth time this season (they’ve also had 19 turnovers in a game too). Now, in this game they were able to limit Memphis from scoring effectively off those turnovers (just 15 points given up off of turnovers) but for the 11th most efficient offense in the NBA, giving away scoring opportunities like that, especially on the road, is going to be the reason you lose games. Eight of their 21 turnovers came from poor passes. Two of them were thanks to three-seconds in the key violations by Spencer Hawes. And they also just simply lost the ball on several occasions. Maybe this Kings team can play sloppily at home against the dredges of the NBA and expect to win but you can’t do that on the road – even against Memphis.
Tyreke Evans once again scored 20 or more points and finished with 28 for the game on 10/18 shooting with making all seven of his free throw attempts. It was his franchise record and L-Train-tying seventh straight with 20 points or more as a rookie. I’m starting to wonder if it’s beneficial to the Kings to have Tyreke play in the post. It seems like they rarely get him the ball early in the clock with the proper spacing to make something positive out of those possessions. He’s much better with a pick-and-roll or isolation at the top of the key because he can drive either way and get to the basket.
And get to the basket he did in this game. There were 14 possessions in this game in which he either got a shot attempt at the basket or was fouled around the hoop. He rarely settled for his jump shot and if it weren’t for a terrible traveling call on one of his successful drives, he would have finished with 30 points.
For the rest of the team, Omri Casspi had a nice game until he was ejected for having appendages. He scored 15 points on 11 shots off the bench and even knocked down another three (shooting 42.9% on the season) and both of his free throws. After starting the season just 2/12 at the line, he’s now made nine of his last 12 attempts at free points and is shooting 45.8% from the free throw line this season. I think we’re starting to see the real Omri stroke (75%-ish) as opposed to his Brockman-like performances earlier this season.
Other than the 14 minutes of inspired play by Jon Brockman off the bench, the Kings had next to zero defensive and offensive presence inside. Spencer Hawes was once again a complete non-factor. Actually, you can’t even call him a non-factor out there because his level of play and effectiveness are a huge factor against the Kings most nights. His inability to defend the hoop, rebound, or score have really hindered the Kings from putting out a complete effort. Other than his passing, you can’t point to a single part of his game and be proud of the effort being put forth.
Also, with Jason Thompson, this is now four straight games in which he hasn’t been able to stay out of foul trouble. He’s had five fouls against him in four straight games. There’s no coincidence that the Kings are losing when he’s struggling. His numbers looked great in the Dallas game but his defense was poor and he gave up a lot of rebounds to the Mavericks big men. In the four-game losing streak, he’s averaging just 12.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.5 turnovers. In two games against Memphis this year, he’s given the Kings just 15 points, 15 boards, two assists, 11 fouls, four free throw attempts (three made), and shot 6/18 from the floor. It’s safe to say he doesn’t want to see Zach Randolph any time soon.
I want to end this with the fantastic play by Sergio Rodriguez. The Kings have really needed him to step up and be the backup point guard he was brought here to be (especially with the Kevin Martin injury). Sergio has been very inconsistent this year (as have his minutes) but over the last two games, he’s certainly making the most of his time on the court. He had a modest six points, four assists in 11 minutes against Houston the other night and followed it up with 16 points and seven assists in 18 minutes against the Grizzlies. He’s been aggressive in both games and getting deep into the defense with his quickness. This is something the Kings desperately need with the second unit in order to let their bench keep them in games.
Now, the Kings look to start a new streak with a very winnable four-game home stand. Over the next eight days, they play the Knicks (3-10), Nets (0-13), Hornets (6-9) and Pacers (5-6). Three wins here shouldn’t just be the plan. It should be the worst-case scenario for the Kings.