This game was there for the taking. For all the Kings early turnovers, they were right there at the end with countless opportunities to pull even and perhaps slide past the Hawks. But on this night, it was not to be. The Kings could not come through with the game on the line — missed open shots, unforced turnovers and an inability to slow down Atlanta doomed Sacramento in the closing moments. After falling behind by double-digits, the miscues kept the Kings from pulling closer than five. The final result was a 106-99 loss, a disappointing game after Friday’s big time win over Dallas.
THREE SILENT GUARDS – On most nights, the Kings can count on at least one, and maybe all three, of their starting guards to produce offensively. Tonight, they got no production. The Atlanta Hawks are a very sound defensive team, especially against aggressive guards. Jeff Teague and Kirk Hinrich played great on-ball defense and Josh Smith was playing volleyball around the basket. Throw in Joe Johnson and Zaza Pachulia, two stout defenders, and Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans failed to go off. Isaiah (23 MIN, 8 PTS, 3 REB) didn’t even attempt a shot in the first half, finished with zero assists and was on the bench at the end of the game. Marcus Thornton (30 MIN, 12 PTS, 4-11 FG, 4 REB) couldn’t get in a groove; more on that later. And Tyreke Evans (33 MIN, 8 PTS, 4-14 FG, 7 AST, 5 REB, 4 TO) had no luck attacking the basket, losing the ball way too much. Without those three guys, the Kings offense unsurprisingly stalled.
BACK TO ROTATIONS – It will be a constant question: Do Keith Smart’s rotations work? The simple answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. Tonight, no. Marcus Thornton was not really given a chance to find a rhythm against Atlanta. The Kings primary perimeter scorer went 2-for-3 in the game’s first 8:30. Seconds after connecting on a triple, Thornton was replaced with 3:02 left in the first quarter. Not a real problem there. The problem is he didn’t return until one minute remained in the half, basically a pointless re-insertion. That’s not good enough. I like riding the bench, and Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons (Combined: 26 PTS, 10-17 FG) were solid, but you have to get Thornton back in there sooner. Thornton didn’t find the touch in the second half, but the Kings failed to run many plays for him, outside of one post play that he converted.
THE LITTLE THINGS – Turnovers and rebounding were two brutal areas for the Kings against Atlanta. Aside from the late game giveaways on simple outlet passes, the Kings started the game extremely sloppy with the rock. Dribbling into congested areas seemed to be a huge culprit, with Evans and Thomas guilty parties. On the glass, the Kings also struggled. Sacramento is second in the league in offensive rebounds, but it was Atlanta who was quick to the ball. Pachulia carved out a nice space, proving to be a tough mountain for Cousins to move. The Kings went small for much of the night; Jason Thompson (4 PTS, 3 REB) played just 17 minutes as the starting power forward. And tonight, it hurt them on the boards. The offensive boards that they rely on for 2nd chance points were gobbled up by the Hawks.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – The Kings tried Jason Thompson, Donte Greene, Francisco Garcia and occasionally others against Josh Smith, to no avail. When Smith is hitting his jumper, he’s a tough cover. He’s really developed a strong offensive game … Cousins (28 PTS, 12 REB, 3 STL, 2 AST, 6 PF) picked up some cheap fouls, stymieing what could have been a massive night. As it was, it was still a terrific output from Boogie, who did a great job of getting to the line (8-10 FT).