Certainly a game the Kings should have won. You can make all the excuses in the world: second night of a road back-to-back, tired legs, tough venue, etc. Truth is, the Kings are a much better team than they faced (as assembled without Kevin Love and Darko Milicic). But Sacramento came out sluggish yet again, finding no rhythm and letting the Wolves walk all over them offensively. The Kings made Nikola Pekovic look like an All-Star — the Minnesota big man had his way with DeMarcus Cousins (10 PTS, 11 REB, 5 PF) and any other defender thrown his way. Once again, the Kings rallied late, but still the execution sputtered. Donte Greene had a wide open corner three at the buzzer for the win, but his shot missed wide right, giving Minnesota a two-point victory, 86-84.
WHERE ARE YOUR BRAINS? – The Kings are a young team, we get that. Unfortunately, that doesn’t excuse some of the mistakes this team made throughout the game. Passes by Jason Thompson and Cousins with no open target, shielding dribblers toward the basket rather than away, careless outlet passes, forgetting about defenders behind you after securing a rebound. These things clearly add up and when you lose by two points, it’s easy to pick one and say it cost you. Is it simply fatigue? Possibly, but it’s maddening to watch and it kills Sacramento early in games.
HOW JIMMER GOT HIS GROOVE BACK – The real Jimmer, at last! With the Kings down eight and about nine minutes left, I’m thinking, “Someone tell Jimmer he’s on BYU and his Cougars are down eight.” That player would not sit back and watch the game slip away. And Jimmer (17 MIN, 13 PTS, 3 AST, 3 REB) answered the call tonight. Letting it fly without hesitation, Jimmer nailed three big triples, converted a steal into a layup and brought Sacramento right back into the game. His usefulness wore off late and Keith Smart replaced him with the vets, but Fredette made his mark. It would have been great to see a few more plays called for Jimmer; pick and rolls with DeMarcus Cousins work a lot better than those with Chuck Hayes. Play to Jimmer’s strengths while he’s in there and he’s too good of an offensive player to fail.
INEFFECTIVE CHUCK HAYES -- We all like Chuck (20 MIN, 0-3 FG, 4 PF, 3 TO). He’s a great dude who has overcome a lot in his career and especially this season. But right now, Hayes is so out of shape that he is not playing to his potential. Injuries could be a reason for that; who knows how hard he could train while recovering from his shoulder dislocation. Unfortunately, he’s playing in slow motion, making lazy passes and the fact that he can’t move really limits his effectiveness on the boards, where he’s already at a height disadvantage. Chuck is clearly an important piece to the team, with his leadership, defensive prowess and calm influence. But until he gets in shape, he’s an on-ball defender only.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – I can’t fault JJ Hickson (8 PTS, 11 REB) for fumbling the final possession. Cousins started one of his scary dribble drives and it was anyone’s guess what would happen next — charge, out of control shot, turnover. The Kings still got a very makeable shot for the win and missed it … We know Joe Crawford is Mr. Sensitive, but Pat Fraher, one of the other officials tonight, seemed to have a personal vendetta against Cousins. The refs on the whole really killed the tempo of the game … John Salmons (25 MIN, 1-4 FG) shrunk back into his shell tonight: no energy, holding the ball way too long … Isaiah Thomas, playing with a chip fracture on his finger, missed all five of his shots.