It’s hard to rip the Kings for this one. Sacramento battled the Orlando Magic for the enture game, but could never turn the corner. The Kings missed a golden opportunity with Dwight Howard a complete non-factor due to fouls. But the team just made too many little mistakes to grab a win, falling 104-97 to Orlando.
OFFENSIVE FAILURES – A lack of deep shooting, too many turnovers and poor execution down the stretch doomed the Kings. Sacramento connected on just 3-of-20 from long-range, missing an abundance of open shots. Additionally, the team committed numerous careless turnovers. Lazy outlet passes, players jumping in the air on passes, forcing the ball into traffic…all killers in such a close game. And down the stretch, the team went stagnant, returning to the one-on-one basketball that led to Paul Westphal’s dismissal. All areas of improvement.
GOOD COUSINS, BAD COUSINS – Overall, it was a very solid performance from DeMarcus Cousins (22 MIN, 16 PTS, 10 REB, 3 BLK, 5 TO). He did a lot of his damage in the first quarter, but it wasn’t just offensively. He also roped Dwight Howard into two quick fouls, taking away the Magic’s big advantage. The problem for DeMarcus, as it usually is, was picking up silly fouls. Trying to take a charge with four fouls is not smart. The fifth foul sent Cousins to the bench with six minutes left in the third quarter and really brought a halt to what could have been a huge day.
SMART’S DIVISION OF MINUTES – Last year, the Golden State Warriors had two players in the NBA’s top four for minutes played, as Keith Smart showed a propensity for sticking with his starters. So far with the Kings, Smart seems to be on a similar path. Tyreke Evans (28 PTS, 8 AST, 4 TO) played 41 minutes against Orlando, while three other starters played 38 minutes. The bench provided just 18 points. One of the team’s strength is its deep bench, but I have no problem riding the starters IF they remain effective. The hectic schedule may force Smart to rely on reserves more than he normally would.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – J.J. Hickson (14 PTS, 11 REB, 4 AST) continues to impress. He moved into the starting lineup with Chuck Hayes injured and provided his typical energy, rebounding and dirty work … Would really love to see Marcus Thornton (13 PTS, 5-16 FG, 6 REB) get more touches down the stretch. Evans and Cousins each had poor one-on-one plays with the game still in reach. Thornton is the best crunch time option we have; I don’t care how much he’s struggled prior to that … John Salmons (8 PTS, 6 REB), a career 36.8 percent three-point shooter, is now down to 27 percent (8-for-29) after going 0-for-3 Sunday.