You want to believe this is the year the Kings finally turn things around. Unfortunately, Wednesday night’s opener wasn’t a step in the right direction. Sacramento showed little continuity on offense — there wasn’t a plan of attack, ball movement was lacking and shots were missed. Even a veteran Bulls team minus Derrick Rose will take advantage. The Kings threatened a comeback on several occasions, but eventually, they fell to Chicago, 93-87.
WHERE’S THE OFFENSE? – The Bulls are one of the better defensive teams in the NBA. But that doesn’t completely explain the Kings lack of production on offense. Turnovers (20 turnovers vs. 14 assists, awful ratio) were a problem throughout. A big detriment to the offense was the poor night of Isaiah Thomas (25 MIN, 10 PTS, 3-8 FG, 1 AST, 3 TO). Sacramento relies on the speedy point guard to get things going, and whether it was his own slow start or Keith Smart’s decision to keep him on the bench for much of the second half, he wasn’t available to help. Additionally, nobody answered the question, “Who do the Kings go to if they need a basket?” Down the stretch, Sacramento had ample chances to close the gap, but nobody emerged to score. Marcus Thornton, DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans all came up with an occasional score. But none was the go-to guy the Kings needed Wednesday.
SIGNS OF DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT – The talk all offseason has been the Kings commitment to the defensive end, and there were definitely some positives to take away from the loss to Chicago. Perhaps most importantly was the individual dedication shown by members of the team. Cousins (25 MIN, 14 PTS, 7-14 FG, 7 REB, 7 TO, 3 STL, 2 BLK) immediately stepped up as a new player on defense. The big man showed active feet and hands, and had it not been for some questionable calls (block/charges that usually go his way), he could have asserted himself into the game further. Also, Evans, a guy I named as the team’s top defender in the season preview, was stout all game long. We’ve seen it in stretches before, but if he can commit himself for 48 minutes, he could become one of the better defenders in the league. And that bodes well for the Kings team defense.
LATE GAME EXECUTION – The game was eerily similar to those witnessed last season. The Kings hung around against a beatable opponent, only to falter down the stretch and fall just short. One sequence symbolized the problem. Down by three with 40+ seconds to go, Tyreke fouled Luol Deng in the backcourt when trying for the stop was clearly the better play. After Deng made one free throw, the Kings took the floor off a timeout and incurred a five-second violation. That’s your ball game. The Kings could have been going for the tie and instead were down four without the ball. Gotta clean that up this year.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Offensively, Evans (39 MIN, 21 PTS, 8-13 FG, 8 REB, 3 AST) was impressive. Whether he can shoot the ball as well as he did remains to be seen, but he’s got his explosiveness and attacking the basket will not be a problem … James Johnson (21 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-8 FG, 3 REB, 1 AST, 4 TO, 3 STL) started at small forward and definitely worked hard. But he showed a penchant for over dribbling and it got him into trouble. He sat down the stretch as the Kings went with three guards … Jimmer Fredette saw six seconds of playing time.