The Sacramento Kings didn’t play a flawless game, but this was just a case of them getting beaten by a better team. Even without Rudy Gay, Memphis is a strong, fundamentally-sound team that plays extremely well together. Unlike the Kings trip to Memphis last month when they were thoroughly outplayed, Sacramento hung around Tuesday. But trailing by just three at halftime, the Kings came out flat in the third quarter, and that minor opening was all the hot-shooting Grizz needed. Memphis took a 108-101 victory, and the Kings have just one more game (Wednesday in Dallas) before breaking for All-Star Weekend.
THIRD QUARTER DROP-OFF – In recent weeks, the second quarter has been the Kings bugaboo. But on Tuesday, the blame fell on the starters, who came out way too slow in the third quarter. In the first 3:57 of the second half, Sacramento scored two points, missed five shots and committed two turnovers. After briefly righting the ship, the Kings again got sloppy toward the end of the quarter, falling victim to a 16-6 Memphis run to close the frame. Trying to win on the road is a big enough chore as it is for the Kings without punting nearly an entire quarter.
TYREKE SHINES – Tyreke Evans played a particularly strong game, and he did it against one of the premier perimeter defenders in the NBA in Tony Allen. Evans (32 MIN, 20 PTS, 10-17 FG, 0-4 FT, 7 REB, 3 AST, 0 TO) came out with a full head of steam. Most impressive was that Evans played aggressive, lane-attacking basketball, yet he stayed under control and made good decisions. Tyreke was an efficient finisher at the rim, and he even hit the boards to help the team in that area. Unfortunately, Evans’ impact was minimized over the course of the game. He scored just four points in the middle two quarters, and by the time he re-established himself offensively, the game was in hand for Memphis.
NO PERIMETER THREAT – While Memphis sizzled from the field, firing to the tune of 54.7 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent from long range, the Kings couldn’t find that consistent perimeter threat. The Kings outside shooting was a key reason for their impressive home wins over the weekend. But in Memphis, John Salmons (30 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-5 FG, 3 REB, 2 AST) was a total non-factor, and Marcus Thornton (21 MIN, 15 PTS, 4-12 FG) was too inconsistent to be relied upon. Sacramento was forced to score inside, and while the team did a solid job underneath, an outside threat was needed to sway this one in the Kings favor.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – The Marc Gasol-DeMarcus Cousins battle is becoming one of the better center battles in the league. The pair posted nearly identical stat lines, and each had moments of frustration due to the physical nature of the matchup. Cousins (36 MIN, 23 PTS, 8-15 FG, 7-9 FT, 7 REB, 4 AST, 3 TO, 5 STL) has fallen in love with the reach-in, but it was successful against Memphis … It was Aaron Brooks’ turn in the Kings point guard roulette. Brooks (20 MIN, 10 PTS, 4-6 FG, 4 AST, 2 STL) played solidly but probably not well enough to justify finishing the game over Isaiah Thomas. And while I’d still prefer Jimmer Fredette for development’s sake, his production — blame it on inconsistent playing time if you’d like — has been spotty of late … Jason Thompson (28 MIN, 15 PTS, 7-11 FG, 6 REB) may be regaining his groove. After a prolonged slump, JT has averaged 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds over the past four games … Evans missed all four of his free throw attempts.