When your offense goes ice cold and you can’t stop the opposing team from scoring, things tend to go south in a hurry. That’s what happened Friday night as the Kings kicked off their road trip in Atlanta. Propelled by the starting guards, Sacramento shot out of the gate with energy and built a double-digit lead in the first half. But it soon became apparent that defense was not present in this one. The Hawks seized control early in the second half as the Kings offense hit the wall. Atlanta coasted to a 122-108 victory.
INDEFENSIBLE– The Kings offense was strong for the better part of three quarters, but their defense…not so much. In the half court, Sacramento became preoccupied with helping off the ball, so much so that Kings defenders failed to remember their own assignments. DeShawn Stevenson (5-6 3FG) killed the Kings from downtown, and Al Horford was automatic with his midrange jumpers. To compound matters, Sacramento was brutal in transition, often failing to retreat in a timely fashion. The Hawks capitalized on 15 Kings turnovers, using speedy guards Jeff Teague and Devin Harris to beat Sacramento up the court.
THE KINGS SPARK PLUG – Not to say that he didn’t before, but in the two games since the All-Star break, Isaiah Thomas really has looked the part of legit NBA point guard. Thomas (37 MIN, 30 PTS, 9-18 FG, 4-6 3FG, 8-9 FT, 9 AST, 6 REB, 3 TO) asserted himself early in Atlanta, showing a cool confidence that energized the Kings in the early going. He scored 19 first-half points, making great decisions and looking to get inside the Atlanta defense. As a bonus, he caught fire from long range, nailing several shots with a hand in his face. Thomas tried to put the Kings offense on his back, but it wasn’t enough. Nonetheless, it’d be great to see Thomas build on this success. A strong finish to the season would further establish Isaiah as a key piece to the Kings future.
DMC GETS COOKING – DeMarcus Cousins had a hot stretch of his own. The Kings center came out of the halftime break looking for his own offense, and he definitely found it. Cousins (37 MIN, 26 PTS, 11-22 FG, 13 REB, 2 AST, 4 TO, 3 STL) scored eight points in the first 3:07 of the third quarter, capping the stretch by drilling a spot-up three-pointer from the top of the key. On the whole, Cousins battled well down low with the physical Zaza Pachulia. DMC hit the boards, keeping several possessions alive with his offensive rebounding prowess. The inside/outside combo of Thomas-Cousins looked ready to lead the Kings to victory, but poor defense and lack of a third offensive option were too much to overcome.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Tyreke Evans (39 MIN, 15 PTS, 5-14 FG, 8 REB, 6 AST, 2 TO) couldn’t finish at the rim, but he again played a solid all-around game. Most comforting is the chemistry that is beginning to form between him and Thomas. Evans has been willing to defer to Thomas, yet he is still getting his touches and creating for others. And it’s also nice to see Evans knock down shots from the perimeter. If he can just develop a spot-up shot out to the three-point line, the Thomas-Evans backcourt becomes viable … Jimmer Fredette (3 PTS, 1-1 FG, 2 AST, 2 TO) played a turbulent 7:34. Fredette was clearly bothered by the pesky Teague, and two turnovers led to his quick removal in the second quarter. He only saw garbage time in the second half … Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas were no shows for this one, but all three are expected to be available for Sunday’s game. Money’s on Douglas being a healthy scratch, Aldrich seeing little to no time and Patterson becoming a regular reserve.