Through five games, what have been the Sacramento Kings biggest areas of weakness? A massive failure to make shots. A lack of production from 2-3 starters every night. Waiting too long to turn up the intensity. All three problems were on display Friday in Portland. The Kings left DeMarcus Cousins alone to fend off the Blazers, and despite the big man’s best effort, it was Portland who played the far superior game. Sacramento was done in by a lack of shot-making from their perimeter players, numerous breakdowns on the defensive boards and the hot crunch time shooting of LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers took the front end of a home-and-home, 104-91.
DEMARCUS AGAINST THE WORLD – After scoring just 19 points in the past two games, Cousins (37 MIN, 35 PTS, 13-25 FG, 9-10 FT, 9 REB, 4 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TO) reasserted himself in a big way Friday. DMC played a terrific all-around offensive game, flashing an inside-outside combination that proved unstoppable for Robin Lopez and the Blazers. Unfortunately, Cousins outscored the rest of the Kings starting lineup, 35-29. On a night when one productive sidekick may have turned the tide in Sacramento’s favor, Cousins got no help and his big scoring output went to waste.
FLIPPING ON THE SWITCH – We saw it against Atlanta. The Kings floated through much of the game, dug a massive hole then feverishly tried to fight back in the fourth quarter only to fall short. A similar pattern occurred in Portland. Sacramento’s final quarter was a great display of defensive intensity leading to transition baskets. The Kings rotated well, attacked the ball and seemed intent on making a game of it. LaMarcus Aldridge’s hot hand killed any chance for the Kings, but it was another instance of waiting too long to turn it up. Sacramento has to bring the intensity from the jump if they want to win, especially on the road against a quality opponent.
SOMEBODY, ANYBODY MAKE A SHOT – The awful shooting that has plagued the forwards leaked into the backcourt against the Blazers. Starters John Salmons and Marcus Thornton combined to make 3-of-17 from the floor, and combined with Isaiah Thomas’ rare off night, it was a recipe for failure. Thomas (29 MIN, 13 PTS, 5-15 FG, 7 AST, 4 TO) gets a pass, especially since he was a factor in the Kings solid run down the stretch. And Thornton (40 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-11 FG, 6 REB, 2 STL) has shown enough in the past to get a little more rope. But giving minutes to Salmons (24 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-6 FG, 3 AST, 2 REB) is becoming a massive waste. Sure, consistent rotations are great, but you can’t be afraid to look outside the box if things aren’t working. Whether that means playing other small forwards or going with small, guard-heavy lineups, Coach Michael Malone has got to consider some changes.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – The Blazers made the Kings pay multiple times for failing to corral defensive rebounds. Portland outrebounded Sacramento, 47-31, and 11 offensive boards helped the Blazers really thwart some Kings rallies … Greivis Vasquez (32 MIN, 12 PTS, 5-10 FG, 6 AST, 2 STL, 1 TO) shot the ball well and set up the offense nicely. He played alongside Thomas in the fourth quarter, a lineup that deserves more court time. Having Vasquez handle the ball can help Isaiah get better looks … Ben McLemore was quiet in seven minutes, taking not a single shot and committing four fouls … Former King Thomas Robinson played a solid 12 minutes off the Blazers bench, tallying 10 points and four rebounds. He outworked the Kings bigs on a few occasions.