A tale of two halves. The Kings first half was one of the most energetic they’ve played this season. Sacramento shot a blistering 58 percent, igniting the home crowd and helping the Kings stay even with the first-place Clippers through 24 minutes. The second half told a slightly different story. The Kings came out flat, as the Clippers scored the first eight points. It only snowballed from there — Los Angeles rode an 11-0 run in the third to a massive lead that the Kings could never erase. The Clips took a 108-100 victory, as the Kings now prepare for a Friday night showdown with LA’s other squad.
FIRST HALF EXPLOSION – The Kings putrid second half makes you forget about how fun the first half was. Sacramento went shot-for-shot with a Clippers team that is as explosive as any in the league. Marcus Thornton (18 PTS, 3 REB) paced the team early with some great slashes to the basket. Keith Smart turned to his bench unit and for the second game in a row, he elected to play five reserves at once. Initially, it looked like a bad decision as Sac fell behind by 10. But then Jimmer happened. Jimmer Fredette (13 MIN, 11 PTS, 3 AST, 2 REB) caught fire, dropping in three longballs. The final one — a pull-up from the right wing — sent the crowd and the Kings starters on the bench into a fervor. The Sacramento reserves rattled off a 19-4 run, and it appeared the Kings were ready to take the game down to the wire.
SLOPPY HOOPS – Turnovers were a huge reason the game got away from Sacramento. The Kings primary ball handlers, Isaiah Thomas (30 MIN, 10 PTS, 4 AST, 5 REB, 6 TO) and Tyreke Evans (18 PTS, 7-21 FG, 6 REB, 3 AST, 4 TO, 3 BLK), were completely out of rhythm. Thomas never could figure out how to beat Chris Paul, an excellent defender at the point guard position. He found little room to shoot, only taking four shots, and couldn’t gain much wiggle room to create for others. The six turnovers give him 11 over the last two games. Tyreke had a dreadful game. Aggressiveness was certainly not a problem, as Evans constantly attacked the basket despite poor results. But his drives lacked execution. Tyreke frequently got caught in traffic or up in the air with nowhere to go, yet he kept forcing it. His lack of confidence in the jumpshot is killing him right now, especially on nights like tonight where the lane is loaded with defenders.
LIGHTS OUT OPPONENTS – How many games have there been where the Kings opponent has a role player go off for a big night? Sacramento entered the game 28th in opponents field goal percentage, allowing teams to shoot 47 percent against them. Tonight, it was reserves Mo Williams and Bobby Simmons who went nuts. Williams, you expect it, but the Kings still left him open far too many times. But Simmons, an NBA journeyman just up from the D-League, was a surprising standout. Primarily in the first half, Simmons made the Kings pay for doubling off of him. The forward canned 5-of-8 from the floor, including three triples. Is it poor defense or pure luck that allows these no-names to go off on the Kings? Obviously, a little of both. But Sacramento has got to a better job of closing out on shooters. And don’t double off of guys like Williams.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – DeMarcus Cousins (23 PTS, 10 REB) was probably the Kings best player, posting yet another double-double and even contributing three blocked shots, tying a season high … J.J. Hickson (13 MIN, 4 PTS, 2 REB) had to be helped off the floor after landing hard on his tailbone in the third quarter. No word yet on the severity … Jimmer excelled in the shooting department but produced mixed results as the ball handler. Teams are really trapping him along the boundaries, forcing him out of his normal rhythm and making him an excessive dribbler. And nobody seems to be biting on his mini pump fakes in the lane … Hassan Whiteside sighting! Two points and two boards in the final two minutes.