The Sacramento Kings are becoming experts at the gut-wrenching loss. As has become commonplace over the past few seasons, the Kings squared off against one of the NBA’s best and gave them everything they had. And unsurprisingly, that effort came up one basket short. Against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday afternoon, Sacramento fell behind early but refused to give up. After rallying late to take the lead, the Kings just could not come up with the plays on the defensive end. The Warriors came through and escaped with a 115-113 victory.
SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS – Make no mistake, the Warriors are a very competent defensive team, and they certainly had a hand in the Kings sloppy ball-handling. But in a game like that, you have to take extra precaution to protect the ball, and Sacramento was far too careless. For much of the season, the Kings have done a great job of valuing the ball. But after 15 first-half turnovers, it was clear that this game would be different. Several of the Kings 24 turnovers were of the short pass variety, where it was simply a matter of too many players in too small of space. There were also the careless entry passes that simply can’t happen. Giving an offensive powerhouse like Golden State free possessions is not going to end well.
STOPPING STEPH CURRY – The Kings tried various methods to defend Stephen Curry, some to varying degrees of success, but none fully slowed down the Warriors sharpshooter. Greivis Vasquez (14 MIN, 6 PTS, 2-8 FG, 3 AST, 2 TO) drew the opening assignment, and as has been the case with Vasquez for much of the year, he simply could not stay in front of the quicker guard. Isaiah Thomas (34 MIN, 19 PTS, 5-16 FG, 8-10 FT, 5 REB, 8 AST, 7 TO, 2 STL) came in and really did a terrific job of getting up into Curry. Isaiah made him work, but still Curry was able to create enough space to produce. Sacramento even tried the bigger John Salmons (27 MIN, 3 PTS, 1-2 FG, 3 AST, 2 TO), who defended Curry on the Warriors game-winning possession. But as that play showed, Salmons didn’t have the quickness to prevent Curry from penetrating. Golden State’s point guard was clearly the deciding factor.
THE BATTLES OF COUSINS – DeMarcus Cousins (21 MIN, 24 PTS, 10-13 FG, 4-5 FT, 6 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 3 TO) battled through 21 tough minutes. There were perceived missed calls, questionable whistles and another installment of the growing rivalry between Cousins and Andrew Bogut. Through it all, Cousins established himself as really the only Kings player initiating offense. He was efficient from the low post and tallied an impressive +19 plus/minus rating despite his five-foul night. You can see the intensity brewing for Cousins in these rivalry games (namely the Clippers and Warriors), and there’s still that part of Kings fans that cringes anytime he is involved in physical play. The improvement of his temper is evident, and Coach Michael Malone has done a solid job of keeping the big man away from major confrontation. While Cousins sat periodically in the final minutes, his more glaring absence was probably during the late third/early fourth when Chuck Hayes (21 MIN, 4 PTS, 5 REB) was providing absolutely nothing from the center spot.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Marcus Thornton (30 MIN, 21 PTS, 6-11 FG, 5-8 3FG, 3 AST) caught fire in the second half and clearly earned floor time over Ben McLemore (18 MIN, 4 PTS, 1-5 FG, 2 STL). Thornton is obviously still talented, but he’s only an asset if performances like this are more frequent. Sacramento desperately needs a perimeter scorer not named Isaiah … Patrick Patterson (27 MIN, 18 PTS, 8-8 FG, 2-2 3FG, 7 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK) impressed with his regained shooting stroke, but maybe just as impressive is his relentless work on the glass. Patterson has been doing a great job of keeping balls alive on the offensive boards, while also attacking the defensive glass. He’s outplaying Jason Thompson (28 MIN, 10 PTS, 4-8 FG, 7 REB) lately … Isaiah’s stat line was solid, but the seven turnovers are a glaring problem, and his decision on the Kings last possession could be questioned. After drawing defenders with a great penetrating dribble, a kick-out pass was probably a better option than testing Bogut at the rim … The Kings shot 52.6 percent from the floor … There were a combined 50 fouls, as whistles completely ruined the flow of the game in many instances … Derrick Williams (21 MIN, 4 PTS, 1-3 FG, 7 REB) played a quiet game in his second appearance with Sacramento.