One step forward, two steps back. After an exciting victory over Golden State, one that featured a powerful offensive attack, the Kings again showed why they hover near the Western Conference basement. Sacramento floated through the first quarter before hitting their typical offensive drought. The Clippers gradually increased their lead to 14 by halftime, and when the teams returned for the second half, DeMarcus Cousins wasn’t with his teammates. A commendable effort from the Kings second unit kept the game within shouting distance, but it was the Clips who coasted to a 97-85 victory.
DMC DOES IT AGAIN – Even without speculating as to what actually happened between Cousins and Keith Smart, enough is enough. DMC (19 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-9 FG, 5 REB, 3 AST, 2 TO, 2 STL, 1 BLK) could be seen arguing with Smart at the end of the first quarter, and it must have escalated further in the locker room. Whatever the case, grow up, DeMarcus. It’s time to stop making excuses for this guy — he’s picked on by the media, he’s actually a nice guy, leadership is lacking, yada yada yada. Cousins is in his third year, and not only has the progression in his skills slowed down, he has yet to make strides in the maturity department. It will be interesting to see the fallout: Will he own up to his mistake or look to point the finger again? His antics have become a detriment to the team, which has enough things to worry about without Cousins’ attitude problems. After the game, Smart simply said it was conduct detrimental to the team, and Cousins’ behavior didn’t coincide with how the team wants to operate. Props to Coach for taking a stand because somebody has to get this guy in line.
SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, GRAB A REBOUND – Even with Cousins on the floor in the first half, the Kings were massively outplayed on the glass. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are big, athletic guys, but that doesn’t excuse missing a box out or failing to rip a rebound with power. Jason Thompson (27 MIN, 10 PTS, 5-7 FG, 8 REB, 2 AST, 3 TO, 2 BLK) played a very poor game by his standards, unable to secure countless loose balls. Chuck Hayes’ (25 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-3 FG, 7 REB, 3 AST, 2 TO) height was no match for the high-flying Clippers, and it seemed like all the Kings could do was tip the ball around and hope it landed in their lap. A 53-32 rebounding advantage for the Clippers was a key in stopping any shot of a Kings comeback.
CREDIT THE BENCH MOB – Perhaps the one positive to take away from this one was the play of the Kings reserves, who brought energy and refused to let the game get completely out of hand. Isaiah Thomas (27 MIN, 12 PTS, 4-13 FG, 2-7 3FG, 2 REB, 1 AST, 2 TO) and Jimmer Fredette (23 MIN, 16 PTS, 4-10 FG, 2-3 3FG, 6-7 FT, 2 AST, 3 STL) formed a formidable backcourt duo. The pairing continues to mesh well and deserves to see more court time together; they’re not out there competing with each other. James Johnson (23 MIN, 10 PTS, 5-12 FG, 0-3 FT, 3 REB, 3 BLK) played a terrific first half, and while he slowed down in the second, it’s good to see him show some offensive skill to go with his stout defense. Those three made the re-insertion of John Salmons and Aaron Brooks pointless, as both veterans played lackluster games (combined 11 PTS, 4-12 FG). With the DMC incident fresh on their minds, Sacramento could have packed it in, but credit to this unit for bringing the effort.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Marcus Thornton (25 MIN, 11 PTS, 4-9 FG, 2-5 3FG, 4 REB, 1 STL) had an encouraging start before cooling off, and you couldn’t fault Smart for riding Thomas and Fredette in the second half … Jimmer gets roasted for his defensive weaknesses, but he stepped up against the Clippers. He even looked halfway decent in one-on-one sets against Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford, two deadly isolation players … Matt Barnes picked up his league-leading 8th technical foul, passing Cousins, who is stuck at seven … The Clippers turned the ball over 19 times, but the Kings failed to capitalize, even botching a four-on-one opportunity due to poor spacing. Sacramento’s passing was brutal all night.