Sunday’s match-up between the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets was decided by fewer than double digits. But the outcome might’ve been much different had the Kings weren’t so loose with the ball and did a better job protecting the rim.
The Kings committed 16 turnovers and in the process, gave up 22 points to the Nuggets. They also surrendered 58 points in the paint, helping lead to a 125-117 loss to the Nuggets in the first of two games in two nights.
“Turnovers, not getting back, and allowing them to live in our paint and at the rim was really the story of tonight,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said after the loss.
Despite playing without DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay for a second straight game, the Kings had no trouble finding their offense. Four of their five starters scored in double figures, including Marcus Thornton (19) and Isaiah Thomas (22). Ben McLemore and Travis Outlaw also came off the Kings’ bench to score 10 and 18 points, respectively.
The Kings’ defense, however, was nonexistent in Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets. The Kings allowed the Nuggets to shoot 51.9 percent from the field and have their way in the paint and in transition, where outscored the Kings 33-23 in fastbreak points.
“We knew coming in the whole (scouting report) was get back on defense, guard the paint,” Thomas said disappointingly of Sunday’s defeat to Denver. ”It just seemed we did the opposite of that. We closed out too hard on their guys and gave up driving lanes, we didn’t make them beat us from the 3-point (line) like we wanted them to.”
Cousins and Gay did not play again due to injuries they suffered last Wednesday against the Houston Rockets. Cousins is not traveling with the team to take on the Utah Jazz tomorrow, while Gay is. There’s no word yet if Gay will be available to play in Monday night’s game.
The Kings fall to 15-28 overall and 9-15 at home. They head into Salt Lake City also losers of their last three contests.
Notes and Analysis
- Marcus Thornton played well for a second-straight game, scoring 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting for Sacramento. His teammates needed to find a way to get him more shots and Thornton should have done a better job, filling up the stat sheet. But three days ago, we had left Thornton for dead and now he has scored 61 points in two games.
- With Thornton threatening to steal all of the shooting guard minutes, rookie Ben McLemore awoke from his slumber. Over his last twelve games, McLemore had posted double figures in points just once and posted four scoreless games. Tonight, he dropped in 18 on 6-of-12 shooting, grabbed three rebounds, three assists and two steals. McLemore came out shooting and that was a good sight.
- Without DeMarcus Cousins dominating the post, Jason Thompson notched his fifth double-double of the season. The longest tenured King finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and added 10 rebounds in loss.
- Isaiah Thomas led Sacramento in both scoring with 22 and assists with eight, but I’m not sure that he helped the Kings tonight. With Gay and Cousins sidelined, Thomas has taken 52 shots over two games. Tonight, he finished 7-of-21 from the field and 1-of-6 from long range. The Kings aren’t going to win games without their two leading scorers unless Thomas makes his teammates better and I’m not sure he did that tonight.
- Derrick Williams is one of the players that Thomas needs to make better. In 31 minutes, Williams took just five shots, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds. Williams shouldn’t be taking 16-18 shots a game like Gay, but he needs to be a major part of the offense with the stars ailing.
- When the Kings acquired Aaron Gray from Toronto, it was as an insurance policy for Cousins. Malone is now cashing in on that policy. The veteran center started for the second straight game and his teammates love playing alongside him. Gray’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but anytime you can get six points, eight rebounds and five assists in 25 minutes out of a reserve big man, you have to be excited.
- Carl Landry struggled again tonight and not just with his shot. In his fourth game back after more than three months away, the veteran forward looked like he had heavy legs – really heavy legs. He finished with six points on 1-of-4 shooting in 19 minutes. With a back-to-back tomorrow in Utah, the Kings might need to let Landry stay back in Sacramento to rest up for Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies.
- Stat of the Night: Both teams shot an identical 42-of-81 (51.9 percent) from the field tonight. Denver made two more free throws than the Kings and hit 10 3-pointers to just four for Sacramento.
Quote of the Night
Michael Malone on the Kings’ scoring:
It was great to see Ben McLemore come out and make shots. The reality is that DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay are out and we knew we couldn’t rely on an 80-point night from Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas. The other guys had to step up. We had six guys in double figures tonight off the bench and Travis Outlaw was in double figures. We’re going to need that tomorrow night – Utah is waiting for us. That’s a very tough place to play, so we’re going to have to have a team effort tomorrow night to have a chance to win on the road.
Video shot and edited by Kimani David.