by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

 
They started off with much better effort than what they showed Saturday against the Golden State Warriors, but they were unable to sustain it.

The Sacramento Kings tipped off Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks with energy, but were unable to maintain it for a full 48 minutes.  As a result, the Kings lost their third-straight game, 105-100, to the visiting Hawks.

“The defense isn’t where it needs to be obviously right now,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said after the game.  ”And we continue to dig ourselves into big holes.  And every time you do that, you try to fight out of it, it takes a lot.  And we came close to pulling it off tonight, but again 19 points down, you can’t expect that.”

Slow starts have plagued the Kings early this season and they appeared to address that issue in the first quarter.  They shot close to 60 percent while simultaneously holding the Hawks to 39 percent from the field.  But offense escaped the Kings in the second and third periods where they shot just 28.9 percent on 11-of-38 attempts.  That appeared to affect their defensive effort as they allowed Atlanta to shoot better than 51 percent in the two middle quarters.

Playing in the fourth quarter mostly without DeMarcus Cousins, who battled foul trouble in the third, the Kings did come back from an 82-65 deficit.  Coach Malone relied on a lineup featuring Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes that brought a much-needed spark to the floor, especially on defense.

But digging out of an early grave is a position the Kings know they need to avoid.  They’re well aware that it’s a trend that has to end sooner rather than later.

“It’s frustrating that we continue to have lapses like that in the game,” Salmons said after Tuesday’s loss. “When we know that if we play with energy and we play together, we give ourselves a chance to win games.  That stretch where we let them go up double figures, we stopped making shots and we start turning the ball over…that affected our energy on the defensive end and we allowed them to get in the paint and dominate the paint.

“Somehow, we gotta learn just because we’re not making shots that we still gotta have our energy on the defensive end to stay in the game,” Salmons added.

The Kings fall to 1-3 on the season and 1-2 at home.  They return to action Friday for the first night of back-to-back games against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Notes and Analysis

  • It was the Isaiah Thomas show tonight in Sacramento as the former Husky almost single handedly pulled off a fourth quarter miracle.  Thomas scored 18 of his 26 points in the final frame, hitting 5-for-7 from the field and all seven of his free throws.  The comeback fell short when Thomas bricked a 26-foot 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds remaining.  But if it wasn’t for him, we would be talking about an embarrassing loss on the Kings home floor.
  • Rookie Ben McLemore brought the energy tonight, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the first half while his teammates stumbled.  He added six rebounds and two steals in his 23 minutes of action and played solid defense alongside Thomas.
  • Until the fourth quarter, Marcus Thornton had had a completely forgettable night.  The veteran shooting guard hit two huge 3-pointers and added a lay-up in less than six minutes of action in the fourth.  He finished the game with 15 points and three steals in 25 minutes.
  • John Salmons came out firing in the first quarter, scoring seven of his 13 points before the first horn. The veteran wing is off to a slow start so far this season, but with the Kings lacking a true option to replace him, coach Malone will keep running him out there and hoping for the best.  Tonight, Salmons stuffed the start sheet with five assists, four rebounds and two blocks in 34 minutes.
  • Al Horford destroyed DeMarcus Cousins in the post.  Horford scored 27 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, picked up three steals and two blocks in 35 minutes.  He was all over Cousins from start to finish and only drew three fouls in the process.
  • Cousins went home frustrated.  First, at his teammates for not getting him the ball and then at Dennis Schroder for popping him in the privates.  Cousins finished with 11 points and six rebounds, but played only 29 minutes due to ineffective play and foul trouble.
  • Coach Malone clearly liked the look of Patrick Patterson on Paul Millsap, but I’m not sure he will still feel that way after watching the film.  Patterson grabbed nine boards in his 31 minutes, but he allowed Millsap to go off for 25 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes.  Jason Thompson has historically played very well against Millsap, but he played only 23 minutes tonight and most of those came at the center position.
  • Stat of the Night: The Atlanta Hawks have now beaten the Sacramento Kings 11 straight times, including six in a row at Sleep Train Arena/Power Balance Pavilion/Arco Arena dating back to February 20, 2008.

Quote of the Game

Isaiah Thomas on why the Kings have been unable to sustain consistent effort.

“I think it’s just body language – we’re not playing for each other. A guy might get a turnover, a guy might miss a shot and we’re all like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Johnny (Salmons) said something in the huddle like, ‘Let’s just play; let’s stop trying to blame everybody else and let’s just play.’ And that’s what that group that came back, we did – we just played. We didn’t care about turnovers, we didn’t care about missed shots, we just played hard. We’ve got to continue to do that and also get better at the things we work on.”

Video shot and edited by Tobin Halsey.