These furious comebacks are certainly impressive, but at some point, you have to stop digging massive holes. The Sacramento Kings waited 40 minutes to turn up the effort, and it was a shame because the way the team played over the final eight minutes should have been good enough for victory against the Atlanta Hawks. Unfortunately, poor defensive effort and uneven offense play created a 19-point deficit that could not be overcome. The Hawks came away with a 105-100 victory.
THAT COMEBACK, THOUGH – A light went on for the Kings in the fourth quarter and the ensuing comeback attempt was an amazing collective effort. The driving force, as it has been all year, was Isaiah Thomas (28 MIN, 26 PTS, 8-17 FG, 9-9 FT, 5 AST, 4 TO), who provided 18 fourth-quarter points to go along with his unmatched intensity and floor leadership. The Kings followed their point guard’s lead — a commitment on the defensive end created fast breaks, and the Kings trimmed Atlanta’s large lead to just one point. They could never wrestle the lead away from the Hawks, who relied on big men Paul Millsap and Al Horford to thwart Sacramento.
WHERE WAS THAT EARLIER? – Any time you see a comeback like that, full of excitement, energy and effort, you have to wonder…why did it take so long to get going? Things got so bad for the Kings that they were even booed on their homecourt after Dennis Schroeder coasted untouched for an easy layup. The middle two quarters were a train wreck for the Kings — they were outscored 57-33 by Atlanta, and chemistry on either side of the court was nonexistent. Clearly, Michael Malone’s halftime words didn’t resonate and the Kings coach didn’t make any big-time lineup adjustments to get out of the hole. It was just a pathetic stretch for Sacramento.
COUSINS RIDES THE PINE – DeMarcus Cousins (29 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-12 FG, 6 REB, 2 AST, 5 TO) was outplayed by Horford, and by the fourth quarter, the frustration was clearly evident from the Kings center. Atlanta did a great job of mobbing Cousins down low, and DMC had no luck stopping his counterparts on the other end. Shortly after Cousins reached his boiling point, sending Horford to the ground with an off-ball foul, Malone pulled him at the 6:03 mark of the fourth quarter with Sac down 12. Cousins never returned, and the Kings mounted their rally. Kudos to Malone for taking a stand. Cousins was underperforming, and his behavior was heading toward trouble. With the team playing well, there was no need to bring him back. As for the big picture, not Cousins’ brightest moment and not the actions of a guy who wants to be a leader.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Ben McLemore (23 MIN, 15 PTS, 6-12 FG, 3-7 3FG, 6 REB, 2 STL) dazzled the crowd in the first half with an impressive shooting display. He also chipped in on the boards and played some solid defense in spurts. The rookie continues to look unfazed by the NBA and will only get better … Marcus Thornton (25 MIN, 15 PTS, 5-10 FG, 3-7 3FG, 3 STL) doesn’t hide his displeasure well, and it was clear he was put off by the team’s early struggles in this one. Luckily, Thornton kept his head and made some big plays on both ends during the Kings comeback … Patrick Patterson (31 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-6 FG, 9 REB, 2 STL, 3 TO) put up a better stat line but still seemed out of it. He was loose with the ball and could not hold his own against Millsap … The Kings produced a poor 22/18 assist-to-turnover ratio and attempted 31 three-pointers.