If there’s one thing the Sacramento Kings have done consistently well this year, it’s been dig themselves into deep holes against their opponents. They did so again Sunday by shooting an abysmal 31.9 percent from the field in the first half of a 97-86 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at Sleep Train Arena.
“We saw the same things as usual,” head coach Michael Malone said following the defeat this afternoon. ”If you’re not physical and you don’t match the other team’s effort then you’re going to have a hard time.”
The Kings’ abysmal play reached a lackadaisical crescendo in the opening moments of the third quarter. Trailing by 13 at halftime, the Kings allowed the Grizzlies to score seven unanswered points to push their lead to a game-high 20 points.
Following a few more minutes of lackluster energy and effort from his starters, Malone saw enough and turned to his bench. A reserve unit led by Travis Outlaw trimmed the Grizzlies’ lead to single-digits headed into the fourth, but by then it was already too late.
“Every night, I feel like we should be able to leave it all out on the court,” said Outlaw, who scored all 18 of his points after halftime. ”Even if we don’t win, the effort should always be there. That should never be a question. We get to play the game we love. We should always want to at least play it the right way and hard.”
Malone opted to ride Outlaw and the rest of his reserves for the remainder of the game. With the exception of Luc Mbah a Moute, who made his first start of the season, Greivis Vasquez, Ben McLemore, DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, went on to play roughly just four minutes in the second half.
Malone told reporters that he wasn’t trying to “send any messages” to his first unit by keeping them glued to the bench for most of the second half. But actions obviously speak louder than words.
“I wanted to keep the guys in that got us back in the game,” Malone said. ”We came out of the locker room and they went up 20, but then we put those guys from the bench back in the game and they cut it to a 3-point game with a chance to tie it. John Salmons missed a big three. I wanted to give those guys a chance to try to close it out.”
The Kings now fall to 2-7 overall and 2-5 at home. They’ve lost their last two contests after snapping a five-game losing streak on Wednesday. They return to action Tuesday to complete a five-game home-stand against the visiting Phoenix Suns.
Notes and Analysis
- Travis Outlaw sat the entire first half, watching his teammates play with zero effort and intensity. When coach Malone called his number in the third quarter, the veteran single-handedly brought his team back, scoring 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in 17 minutes of action.
- After a lackadaisical effort in 12 minutes during the first half, Isaiah Thomas found some energy in the second half, scoring 10 of his 15 points after intermission. The Kings need Thomas to instantly change the tempo of the game when his number is called and tonight, he didn’t have it.
- It doesn’t matter who Malone throws out there at the small forward spot. Tonight it was Luc Mbah a Moute over John Salmons, which may have worked if the rest of the Kings’ starting lineup could hit a shot. Mbah a Moute went 1-for-6 from the field, finishing with just four points and three rebounds in 26 minutes. He has a way to go until he is all the way back in game shape, but at least Mbah a Moute can play some defense.
- Salmons came off the bench to score 10 points and led the team with five assists. The veteran wing came off the bench for the first time this season, but still managed to lead the team with 34 minutes of play. If his 3-pointer at the 6:43 mark with the Kings trailing 79-82 went down, we might be talking about a different game. Instead, Salmons is now shooting just 20-percent from 3-point range on the season.
- Malone gave his starters a quick hook in both the first and second halves. The group appeared lost and so did the second group early on. Was it the change to Mbah a Moute and the players just not being comfortable? Was it just a bad match up? These are questions that Malone are going to want to answer before Tuesday when the Kings take on the Suns.
- The Kings scored just five points in the first six and half minutes of the second quarter and finished with just 16 points on 7-for-25 from the field. Marcus Thornton was the one lone bright spot, hitting two of his three shot attempts for four points in six minutes. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to continue that trend in the second half. The veteran guard finished with 12 points on 5-for-13 shooting, but went 1-for-7 from behind the arc in 29 minutes.
- DeMarcus Cousins finished the night with just nine points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. The Kings needed their big man to get them over the hump late and Malone left him on the bench.
- Stat of the Night: The Kings shot just 37.9 percent from the field and allowed the Grizzlies to win the rebounding battle by a final tally of 49-35.
Quote of the Game
John Salmons on coming off the bench for the first time this season.
“Before the game we were 2-6. I haven’t been shooting the ball well, so he just wanted to make a change and I respect his decision. I still have to be a leader on the team and try to help these young guys out. I’m going to continue to do that, continue to try to help our team win, do the best I can with my role and move on.
Video shot and edited by Kimani David.