What can you say? What a complete frickin’ meltdown in Denver. The Kings continue to find new ways to throw away ball games, and Monday night’s debacle has got to be a new low. Sacramento seemed primed to steal a road win against a tough Nuggets team…until they reverted back to their typical late-game shenanigans. Instead of a relaxing flight back to Sac, the Kings head back with a kick-in-the-crotch overtime loss, falling to Denver 119-116.
END OF THE FOURTH GARBAGE – There the Kings sat. Up 5 with 28 seconds left. No way they can fail, right? Dead wrong. It started with the reliable Isaiah Thomas (7 PTS, 4 AST, 4 TO) missing a free throw and it ended with a complete breakdown. After first letting Aaron Afflalo bury a three with nine seconds left to cut the lead to one, the Kings retook a three-point lead with 7 seconds left. I’ll say this…I may be one of the few guys who hates fouling when you are up three because so many times teams do it wrong. If you do it too early, it ends up putting the pressure back on your team to make free throws. But tonight was the perfect example of when the strategy should be employed. And the Kings completely botched it. Sacramento had so many chances to hack Afflalo with the clock under three seconds and the Nuggets guard in a harmless position. Instead, Marcus Thornton let him get into his shooting motion and got way too close. It was the type of disgusting late-game execution that has become way too common. As a bonus, the play fouled out Thornton, who was severely missed in overtime. And the Kings attempt with 0.6 seconds left was a brutal shot from 40 feet; get something going toward the rim, please.
OVERTIME OFFENSE – Tyreke Evans (27 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 4 TO) was terrific down the stretch and into overtime, trying his best to put the team on his back. But you cannot run the same play over and over and over and have success. The Kings fell in love with the most basic of plays: Tyreke slowly dribbles it up, throws a short high entry pass to Jason Thompson, who pitches it right back. And then Evans was supposed to create something with 10 seconds on the shot clock. Awful. The other three Kings would stand and watch this ridiculous play. There is no way Keith Smart should have let this go on the amount of times it did. Where was the ball movement? The player movement? The screens? Just brutal execution. Yes, the Kings missed Thornton’s ability to create his own jumper, but you have got to move on. There is plenty of offensive firepower that needed to be utilized.
TWO RESERVES STEPPING UP – For the sake of sanity, it’s important to bring up some bright spots in an otherwise pitch black result. Since moving to the bench, John Salmons (14 PTS, 4 REB, 5 AST, 3 TO) has actually been a major contributor. With the ball in his hands, Salmons is comfortable (we knew that though, didn’t we?). His shot is much more efficient, he’s getting to better spots on the floor and he’s actually setting up teammates as the second unit’s floor general. His defense has returned to outstanding; he’s really causing problems and doing a solid job on three positions. And how about Hassan Whiteside (14 MIN, 5 PTS, 7 REB, 2 BLK) getting some legitimate run? The Kings raw center was inserted in the second quarter and showed some of the skills that make him a nice development project. Whiteside showed a pretty good ability to read rebounds, a willingness to mix it up and despite two defensive three-second violations (at least one was garbage), he played the middle of the zone pretty well. Had he not rimmed out a couple of shots around the basket his line would have looked better. The block he made on an attempted three-pointer, showing his full reach, was awesome.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – The fouling screw-up ruined a good game for Thornton (10-18 FG, 6-9 3FG, 27 PTS, 4 REB), who was absolutely feeling it with his jumper tonight … DeMarcus Cousins (23 MIN, 5 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST, 3 TO) never got involved. Fouls took him out early, but late in the game, he just never was under control. And the Kings didn’t look to him with the game on the line … The Kings ended all five periods terribly: 9-2 Denver run to end the 1st, 10-2 Denver run to end the 2nd, 10-2 Denver run to end the 3rd, 6-2 Denver run to end the 4th, 9-2 Denver run to end OT. Sheesh.