All the elements for a win were falling into place. The Sacramento Kings bounced back from Saturday’s embarrassment with a spirited effort. The team played together, forced 20 Jazz turnovers and even looked primed to overcome more immaturity from DeMarcus Cousins. But there was one minor detail missing from the Kings winning formula — shot making. Sacramento just could not get a basket when they needed to. The cold shooting touch allowed Utah to force overtime, and the Jazz went on to win 98-91 in extra time.
CRUMBLING OFFENSE – Just a pathetic performance from the Kings offense down the stretch. Early on, things were actually running decently. Isaiah Thomas (38 MIN, 15 PTS, 5-12 FG, 2-4 3FG, 2 REB, 3 AST, 1 TO) was commanding the squad, and while the shots still weren’t falling with much success, you could at least respect what was going on. In the second half, things disintegrated. The perimeter shooting hit a new low, as the Kings supposed outside threats were worthless. John Salmons, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette combined to go 5-for-27 from the field and 1-for-13 from long range. To combat the awful shooting, the Kings turned to iso ball. It was hard to fault Tyreke Evans’ (40 MIN, 20 PTS, 7-15 FG, 6-10 FT, 3 AST, 2 REB, 2 TO) game, but Sacramento started getting away from Thomas as the primary ball-handler and left the ball in Evans’ hands. The result was poor ball movement and several forced attempts, including one by Evans at the end of regulation that could have won the game.
PRAISING HAYES – This game never swayed significantly in either team’s direction, but Chuck Hayes was a huge difference maker in the second half. Taking over for Cousins, who was ejected at halftime, Hayes (26 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-2 FG, 5 REB, 1 STL) immediately stabilized the team. No silly antics…Hayes just put on his hard hat and went to work. The undersized center was a joy to watch as he neutralized Al Jefferson with strong, physical defense. The workman-like approach clearly rubbed off on his teammates, as everyone seemed to up their game. Hayes has earned a lot of respect this season. He may never be that big time leader this team needs, but tonight he was a model of professionalism, something that was needed after the shenanigans of the Kings starting center on this night.
JT FILLS VOID – Jason Thompson also helped lessen the blow of Cousins’ absence. Thompson (45 MIN, 23 PTS, 9-18 FG, 10 REB, 2 STL) has been ineffective as of late, but against Utah, he was a work horse. JT worked the glass, fought for loose balls and he showed the nice touch that was on display earlier in the season. The Kings didn’t run much offense through Thompson, but he still made his mark on the offensive end. The only shame was that Thompson missed a couple of chances down low in the fourth quarter that really could have sealed the deal for Sacramento. Otherwise, it was a great game for him.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – It gets tiresome to break down Cousins’ outbursts. But nothing happened to him in the first half that justified his anger toward the refs. Just let it go for once and play basketball. Nobody was picking on him. He had two fouls. He shot zero free throws in one half. By comparison, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap shot four combined free throws over four quarters and overtime. So it wasn’t like refs were just swallowing their whistles on his drives. It was a physical game that the refs let play out … Salmons (36 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-9 FG, 3 REB, 2 AST) has been useless lately. He’s made just three of his last 25 shots, as apparently the sickness that felled him has messed up his game … Kings shooting: 40.2 percent from the floor, 3-for-20 from downtown, 72 percent from the line.