Fourth Quarter Execution Dooms Kings Against Warriors

Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Just a strange overall game in Oakland. For the first three quarters, it was hard to figure out why the Kings were only up by one point. Sacramento was playing strong team defense, taking care of the boards and executing relatively well on offense. But the fourth quarter was a disaster on both ends. Golden State, with starting guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry combining for just 15 points, relied on a group of reserves to rally past the Kings. Sacramento made it interesting at the end but it was too little, too late; the Warriors took the win, 93-90.

OFFENSE CRUMBLES LATE – The Kings fourth-quarter offense was a train wreck. The Warriors turned up the defense, and Sacramento failed to adjust. One problem was the Kings took way too long to get anything toward the rim. The team turned into a bunch of dribblers afraid to shoot. Several times at the start of the quarter, Isaiah Thomas or Tyreke Evans would pass up open shots, only to find that nothing better existed. As a result, the Kings had to force tough shots, which the Warriors turned into transition points. It was a recipe that sunk Sacramento. Too much dribbling and passing with no results.

STOUT TEAM DEFENSE – With Golden State, the focus defensively has to be on stopping their potent backcourt. And for 36 minutes, the Kings did a great job. Tyreke and John Salmons especially showed strong on-ball defense against Curry and Ellis. Additionally, Keith Smart kept Jimmer Fredette (19 MIN, 5 PTS, 2 AST, 2 TO) on the bench for long stretches. With Jimmer not cooking offensively, it only made sense to remove his poor defense. With Curry and Ellis unable to get going, the Kings held the Warriors to just 40.7 percent shooting, and Sac outrebounded Golden State 53-38. It should have been enough. But 18 turnovers and the aforementioned late game struggles told the story for the Kings.

THREE KINGS LEAD THE WAY – The Kings offense operated efficiently in stretches, and it was thanks to three players. DeMarcus Cousins (21 PTS, 14 REB) was unstoppable early on. The big man showed great patience (at times) when receiving the ball in the paint. That’s always the key with Cousins — don’t force it, stay controlled — and he dominated the Warriors in the first quarter. The second quarter was Tyreke Evans’. Evans (22 PTS, 10 REB, 9 AST, 3 STL, 5 TO) found confidence in his jumper after struggling through the first quarter. He’s so much better when he just shoots in rhythm, rather than hesitating and chucking. And Isaiah Thomas (27 MIN, 11 PTS, 4 AST, 3 REB) proved once again that he is unfazed by crunch time. With the Kings clinging to life down 12 with 2:45 to go, Thomas went to work. He hit three triples and scored a tough layup to bring the Kings back within one. It would be great to see Thomas get more aggressive early on; he clearly can be a game changer for the team.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Jason Thompson (31 MIN, 13 PTS, 11 REB) continues to produce. Such a different player than he was last year. Thompson is poised with the ball, uses a variety of moves with both hands and most importantly, he finishes at the rim. Time to start thinking, what kind of contract is it going to take to retain him after the season? … Brandon Rush was a handful for the Kings, knocking down four three-pointers as the Warriors pulled away … JJ Hickson received just 15 minutes but made the most of them. Five rebounds (two offensive) and one block … The teams meet again Saturday in Sacramento.

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