As the season creeps to its conclusion, the Sacramento Kings previous streak of productive basketball has apparently already ended. Sunday night’s game in Houston was an abomination, a mixture of disgraceful defensive effort with streetball-quality offensive rhythm. The Rockets, a team that loves to push the tempo, must have been thrilled to see the Kings roll out the red carpet. Aside from a small run in the second quarter, the Kings provided little resistance to the Rockets, and Houston buried Sacramento, 121-100.
TEAM MORALE HITS ZERO – Two of the most poignant images from the game were shots of Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins on the bench. Both were completely dejected, heads hidden in towels as they watched the ugly events unfold Sunday. Cousins, we see pouting on a nightly basis, and his sadness is never a surprise. But when Thomas (28 MIN, 10 PTS, 2-9 FG, 10 AST, 1 TO) hits his breaking point, as a player who gave 100 percent effort but was absolutely no match for the steamrolling Rockets, you know you have a team morale problem. Obviously it stems mainly from just being a poor basketball team, but there are, of course, other factors: lack of confidence in the coaching staff, lack of leaders on the floor, the conclusion of a brutal losing season. It’s just tough to get your brains kicked in every night, and you can tell it’s wearing on many of the Kings players.
ROCKETS OPEN FLOOD GATES – As for the game itself, it really came down to a Rockets team committed to running the floor and creating the best possible opportunity. Whether that was at the rim or from long range, Houston was successful. The Kings 15 turnovers and 39 percent shooting gave the Rockets plenty of fast break opportunities. And the Kings lackadaisical effort in stopping Houston ensured most tries would be successful. As expected, James Harden dictated Houston’s offense, and the Kings couldn’t match up. The Rockets dropped 13-of-27 from three-point range and hit 54.2 percent from the field.
ONE NICE RUN – At the 9:10 mark of the second quarter, the Kings already found themselves down 43-28 and a true beating appeared to be on the horizon. But over the next five minutes, Sacramento reeled off a 14-2 run, powered by the dynamic guard play of Jimmer Fredette (21 MIN, 10 PTS, 5-14 FG, 5 AST, 5 REB, 3 STL). Jimmer is getting more aggressive, but he could even take it up another notch, and it’d be awesome to see his teammates actually look to set him up for a clean look. Nonetheless, for that brief period, the Kings flipped the script on a struggling Rockets team, turning steals and rebounds into quick outlet passes and transition attempts. The momentum reverted back to Houston quite quickly, as the Rockets finished the half on a 17-2 run of their own. But hey, at least the Kings gave fans five quality minutes.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Cole Aldrich (26 MIN, 12 PTS, 6-7 FG, 12 REB, 4 BLK) posted the best stat line of his career. While some of the numbers were accumulated in garbage time, the backup big man was active down low and finished nicely at the rim. Really not a bad 11th or 12th man as a 7-footer, but I could see him getting squeezed for better talent … Marcus Thornton played eight minutes and missed all six of his shots. He didn’t see the floor in the second half … Cousins picked up his 16th technical, which would result in a one-game suspension. However, the chances of it being overturned seem high. Violet Palmer read way too much into a light nudge Cousins gave to Greg Smith; a reputation technical if there’s ever been one … All three former Kings — Thomas Robinson, Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia — got some run in this laugher. They combined for four points in 23 minutes.