Another night, another frustrating game for the Sacramento Kings. The team provided brief flashes of solid play, but these were overshadowed by long lapses and poor late game execution. The Kings fell asleep to open the second half, falling behind by 13. After battling back, Sacramento again struggled to find offense and collapsed on defense at the most inopportune times. Minnesota, riding a five-game losing streak, took a 97-89 victory at Sleep Train Arena.
FOURTH QUARTER ZONE – After being absolutely destroyed in the paint in the first half with the T-Wolves scoring on layups at will, the Kings employed a zone for nearly the entire fourth quarter. And the results, as with any Kings strategy this season, was a mixed bag. Minnesota definitely struggled at times with breaking down the zone, choosing to force passes into tight windows and subsequently lose the ball. But Sacramento’s zone was not without holes and the T-Wolves exploited it enough times to earn the win. Alexey Shved hit two crushing, uncontested three-pointers early in the final frame to extend the Minnesota lead. And when games come down to single possessions, those plays will kill you.
ISAIAH GETS TO CLOSE – Isaiah Thomas (21 MIN, 12 PTS, 4-6 FG, 4-5 FT, 3 REB, 3 AST, 4 TO, 2 STL) has watched his role and minutes fluctuate more than anyone on the roster. Against Minnesota, Keith Smart stuck with the former starter to finish the game. And to be honest, it wasn’t completely warranted. Isaiah brought his energy, made some timely layups and you could tell he had some confidence because of the fourth quarter minutes. But he was way too sloppy with the ball to be trusted running the offense. Frequently, Thomas got caught in the lane with the tall trees and lost the rock. Four turnovers, three assists…that ratio won’t get it done. And Thomas is still looking hesitant to shoot from the outside.
EVANS EMERGING – Tyreke Evans’ string of productive basketball continued against the T-Wolves. Reke (36 MIN, 20 PTS, 9-14 FG, 2-3 3FG, 7 REB, 6 AST, 2 TO, 2 STL, 2 BLK) surprisingly did a lot of his damage from the perimeter, and that’s always a huge benefit. The stroke looked good, and with every shot made, Evans gets more confident. Aside from one fast break in which he missed an open Isaiah in the corner, Evans is also moving the basketball. Keith Smart has shown he isn’t going to give the keys to the offense to a traditional point guard like Thomas. The only other option is to let Tyreke run things and hope he continues to find the open man when the situation calls for it. It got the Kings off to a strong start during Evans’ rookie season. Let’s hope it starts generating some victories now.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – DeMarcus Cousins (28 MIN, 20 PTS, 9-22 FG, 5 REB, 2 AST, 2 TO, 2 STL) had his jumper flowing in the first half. It made it difficult to figure out why DMC insisted on driving the basketball. Just spot up and drop those 15 footers all night … John Salmons’ (30 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-5 FG, 2 AST, 0 REB, 2 TO) contributions were hard to detect. It was tough to see why he received more minutes than anyone not named Evans … The Kings bench got severely outplayed in the second quarter … Kevin Love was a beast, but Luke Ridnour pouring in those midrange jumpers was killer … The Kings didn’t shoot their first free throw until the third quarter, but other than a poor double foul call that resulted in Cousins’ 4th foul, the refs did a good job of letting the teams play physical basketball … Always a big hand for Rick Adelman every time he comes back to Sacramento.