CK Press Box Report: Kings 100, Pelicans 106

by James Ham and Rui Thomas 

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The Kings’ seesaw effort was in full effect tonight, as the home team fell to the New Orleans Pelicans 106-100.

“We just completely broke down,” admitted DeMarcus Cousins after the loss. “We gave this team life. We had them down early, and we just gave them life.”

Sacramento raced ahead to a 54-45 halftime lead thanks to their dominant two-way play. The Kings shot 48 percent from the floor and dealt 16 assists to seven turnovers, while holding the Pelicans to 42.9 percent field goal and 25 percent 3-point shooting in the half.

But poor protection of the ball and errant shot selection for the Kings in the third quarter set up easy transition baskets for their opponent, highlighted by a 19-5 run. Sacramento managed zero assists to five turnovers, and failed to stick with gunner Ryan Anderson, who scored nine of his 22 points in the period.

“In the third quarter we didn’t defend at all — we gave up 31 points and only scored 15 offensively,” explained Michael Malone. “Before that, in the first half, we had 16 assists and only seven turnovers. The ball moved, we executed, and we looked for each other. Then in that third quarter, I had no idea what we ran. It was random one-on-one, pound the ball basketball — that led to a bunch of turnovers.”

DeMarcus Cousins was once again the Kings’ focal point on offense, and he finished with 24 points, 17 rebounds and three assists. Sacramento squandered Jason Thompson’s best offensive performance of the season, as he recorded 15 points on 60 percent shooting and added nine rebounds.

Sacramento also received contributions from Rudy Gay (15 points, five assists), Darren Collison (13 points, 11 assists) and Omri Casspi (13 points, five rebounds).

The Kings out-rebounded the Pelicans 52 to 32 and outscored them in the paint 60 to 50, but they failed to draw free throws at their league-leading pace (20-0f-29 tonight) and allowed New Orleans to shoot 56.8 percent from the floor in the second half.

Anthony Davis manufactured a 28-point, nine-rebound, three-block stat line while Tyreke Evans held his own with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. Eric Gordon finished with 17 points for his best night of the season.

Michael Malone and his 6-5 squad have some soul searching to do, with a number of uneven performances in the past two weeks. The Kings practice Wednesday and host the Chicago Bulls at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Notes and Analysis

  • DeMarcus Cousins was a beast tonight, but his efforts were in vain.  The Kings center notched his eighth double-double in 11 games, finishing with 24 points, 17 rebounds and three assists.
  • Jason Thompson had his best game of the season on the offensive end, finishing with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds.  Thompson did a solid job on Anthony Davis early, but the 21-year-old forward/center finished with a big night, becoming the first Sacramento opponent to score over 25 points in a game this season.
  • Collison shot just 3-of-10 from the field, but the Kings starting point guard still managed to score 13 points and hand out a season-high 11 assists.  Sacramento had 16 assisted baskets in the first half, but as the game tightened up, the Kings stopped moving the ball.  Eight of Collison’s dimes came before the intermission.
  • Rudy Gay had a rough shooting night, but still finished with 15 points, five assists and four rebounds.  The Pelicans’ length hurt the Kings tonight, perhaps no one more than Gay.
  • Omri Casspi has become an extremely valuable member to the Kings rotation.  We are seeing the 26-year-old forward finish games with the starters.  His energy and quickness were huge factors down the stretch as Casspi finished the night with 13 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes.
  • Carl Landry played a tough 16 minutes off Malone’s bench, finishing with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds.  This was a bad matchup game for Landry and he still produced in limited minutes.
  • Ray McCallum and not Ramon Sessions was the first point guard off the Kings bench tonight.  McCallum dropped in five points in 21 minutes of play while playing solid defense.  That might be enough to steal Sessions’ minutes moving forward.
  • Stat of the Night: The Pelicans, always mindful of possessions, dished 21 assists to six turnovers. Jrue Holiday steered their offense with nine assists and no turnovers.

Quote of the Game

Michael Malone on the Kings’ quick fix

“We have to get back to defending. I told our guys, we have to commit to coming in to practice tomorrow and getting ready for Chicago. If we want to fool ourselves and pick our spots that we want to defend, well there will be a lot more losses. If you look at our wins, every one that we’ve had has been a game where we played good defense for 48 minutes. We really limited our opponents. For them to shoot as well as they did in that second half is unacceptable.”

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