With the events of yesterday fresh in everyone’s mind, you just knew this game wouldn’t be boring. And the 14,011 fans who had some extra motivation to cheer on the home squad were certainly treated to an action-packed contest. Unfortunately, on this night the Sacramento Kings just couldn’t deliver the desired result. In a game full of ups and downs, it was the Kings who faltered at the end. Despite a late push, Sacramento couldn’t make the plays down the stretch and watched the Dallas Mavericks walk away with a 117-112 overtime win.
HOT START – This game definitely started the way the Kings wanted it to. Sacramento moved the ball as well as it has all season, and while the team connected on just 1-of-12 from long range in the first half, they still cracked 50 percent shooting from the floor. Isaiah Thomas (31 MIN, 18 PTS, 6-11 FG, 4 AST, 2 TO, 2 REB, 2 STL) came out with aggression, getting inside the Mavericks defense. John Salmons and Francisco Garcia showed no reservations about making the extra pass. For the first time in a few weeks, the bench provided a positive contribution, and the reward was a seven-point halftime lead.
DEFENSIVE FAILURES – The Kings stretched their lead to 17 points with 3:50 left in the third quarter, thanks to a torrid streak from Garcia (33 MIN, 13 PTS, 4-8 FG, 4 REB, 3 AST). But then things started getting sketchy. An unorthodox four-guard lineup was unable to generate any offense, and when the starters returned, the matador defense really took off. Dallas’ first nine made field goals of the fourth quarter were within three feet, as the Kings completely collapsed on defense. OJ Mayo powered his way to the basket, and Vince Carter slowly maneuvered through statuesque defenders. Meanwhile, the Kings offense, running with Tyreke Evans as the lead guard, broke down — the ball movement stopped, the cutting ceased and the shots wouldn’t fall. With less than a minute left, the Mavericks had completely flipped the script, turning a 17-point deficit into a five-point lead.
ELATION, THEN SADNESS – Credit the Kings for feeding off the energetic crowd in crunch time. Salmons (38 MIN, 11 PTS, 4-15 FG, 3-10 3FG, 4 AST, 4TO, 2 STL) hit a ballsy three-pointer from the top of the circle to trim the lead to two. Mayo extended the Dallas lead to three with 15 seconds left. And then Isaiah — the Washington native who attended a Sacramento City Hall meeting last season to save the Kings — banked in a miraculous three-pointer that seemed to be guided by the basketball gods. After a terrific defensive sequence, the Kings forced overtime. But in the extra frame, Sacramento just couldn’t get it done. To top it off, DeMarcus Cousins (39 MIN, 29 PTS, 9-14 FG, 11-17 FT, 9 REB, 4 AST, 5 TO), who had been enjoying a great night, had a split second lapse in judgment. His arm to the face of Vince Carter earned him a flagrant-2/ejection, and with his rep you shouldn’t be at all surprised to see a one game suspension. The good feelings had left the building, and the Mavericks took advantage.
KEITH SMART AND HIS SIX GUARDS – Let’s take a look at Smart’s interesting rotation moves for this one. Marcus Thornton, who was active, and Jimmer Fredette saw no action in the first half behind Thomas/Garcia/Brooks/Evans. But in the third quarter, Smart went small ball. His four guard lineup featured Brooks, Fredette, Thornton and Evans, with Thomas Robinson as the only big. I don’t mind this thinking — the strength of the Kings bench is the guard depth. If you can get creative and have success, then by all means, experiment. He may have left that lineup in a break too long but can’t fault him for going there. That squad actually played solid defense, rotating well out of double teams and contesting perimeter shooters. Smart’s other big decision was to keep Evans in the game until the 1:45 mark of the fourth quarter, despite the Kings lack of offensive movement. This one is harder for Smart to explain. It’s not to discount Tyreke (32 MIN, 20 PTS, 8-11 FG, 7 REB, 2 AST, 1 TO, 2 STL, 3 BLK), who played a strong game, but that lineup wasn’t producing anything. A distributor — Isaiah — was sorely needed. At the end of the day, you can’t possibly envy Smart’s job, trying to create playing time for six capable guards. But certain times call for certain players.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Thornton (7 MIN, 0-3 FG, 1 AST) was understandably awful in his seven-minute stint. He tried to shoot himself into rhythm, but clearly wasn’t ready to contribute. It’ll come … Jason Thompson (30 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-5 FG, 3 REB, 2 TO) had a quiet stat line, but he really battled well with Dirk Nowitzki and managed to keep his emotions pretty well in check despite a lame technical foul call … T-Rob (13 MIN, 2 PTS, 10 REB, 3 TO, 2 BLK) crashed the boards well in the first half, and it’s good to see him find one area where he can produce for the team.