Dec 6, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers small forward Nick Young (0) goes up for a basket between Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) and point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) before goal tending is called during the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kings Late-Game Meltdown Allows Lakers To Steal Victory

Dec 6, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Jodie Meeks (20) reacts with shooting guard Wesley Johnson (11) after a three point basket against the Sacramento Kings during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings 106-100. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

And another installment of the Lakers-Kings rivalry ends with the Kings getting kicked in the teeth. In a season full of gut-wrenching losses for Sacramento, this one may take the cake. The Kings played three quarters of highly entertaining, effective basketball, and it was all erased by 5 minutes of absolute garbage. Sacramento completely fell apart down the stretch, with the offense turning into a confused, unproductive mess. On the other end, the Lakers capitalized, relying on hot shooters to overtake the Kings…to the delight of the probably 50 percent of Sleep Train Arena that was cheering for Los Angeles. The final tally was a 106-100 win for the Lakers and more difficult questions for the floundering Kings.

EXPLAIN YOURSELF, COACH – Coaches are bound to have bad games, and when your team is low on talent, these mistakes are magnified. Coach Michael Malone provided plenty of head-scratching decisions in this one. First of all, if you have any intention of winning a game, there is no justifiable reason for not having Isaiah Thomas on the floor. As usual, Thomas (25 MIN, 14 PTS, 6-13 FG, 2-4 3FG, 9 AST, 2 REB, 4 STL, 3 TO) completely changed the complexion of the game in the first half. With his team struggling, Isaiah entered and seized control for his squad with an injection of sorely-needed energy. Admittedly, his second half was less stellar but he’s still the Kings second best player, and you don’t bench your stars with the game on the line. Digging deeper, there is also no explanation for sitting Ben McLemore (32 MIN, 20 PTS, 8-17 FG, 4-7 3FG, 6 REB, 2 STL) until the 3-minute mark of the fourth quarter, considering he was the hottest hand on the team and his replacement, Marcus Thornton, was useless offensively. Patrick Patterson (22 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-9 FG, 7 REB), who again shot horrifically, could also have been benched for either Derrick Williams (25 MIN, 9 PTS, 2-5 FG, 5-6 FT, 9 REB, 2 AST) or the productive Jason Thompson (23 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-5 FG, 5 REB, 1 BLK). Too many questionable decisions for Coach Malone, and he had to suffer the consequences.

KINGS CRUMBLING EXECUTION – Coach Malone shoulders his fair share of the blame, but his players did nothing to bail him out. Execution in the first three quarters was excellent. The ball moved, players moved and iso-ball was kept at a minimum. All of a sudden with the game on the line, the Kings decided to protect their lead by pounding the rock and becoming predictable. Outside of dumping the ball inside to DeMarcus Cousins (32 MIN, 20 PTS, 6-17 FG, 8-12 FT, 11 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 6 TO) and praying for success, Sacramento ran no discernible offense. Dribble, dribble, dribble, pass down low, watch, stand around. The result was an embarrassing string of forced interior shots by Cousins intertwined with ugly turnovers. To the Lakers credit, their shooters made the Kings pay. The Kings sloppy offense led to lackadaisical defense, and Los Angeles let it rain buckets.

MCLEMORE’S EFFORT WASTED – If the result had been more positive, this could have been a coming out party of sorts for Ben McLemore. The Kings rookie looked terrific on both ends. Offensively, he was aggressive but much better with his shot selection than the Oklahoma City game. Nobody on the Kings works harder off the ball, and against the Lakers, McLemore was rewarded. He finished well at the rim, and his shot was pure — his back-to-back three-pointers gave the Kings an 87-77 lead and should have been the turning-point for a Sacramento win. On the defensive end, McLemore found himself on Steve Blake at times. His positioning was solid, and his athleticism and quickness helped him stay in front of his man. Because of Greivis Vasquez’s deficiencies defending quicker guards, McLemore may find himself on opposing point guards. It’s great that he’s showing signs of growth as he gains experience.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Patterson is now 2-for-18 in his last two games … Cousins wore his emotions on his sleeve, and clearly he was frustrated all night long. The Lakers bigs did a great job of forcing Cousins into tough looks, and that combined with the disappointing play of some of his teammates clearly bothered DMC … John Salmons (26 MIN, 13 PTS, 5-9 FG, 3-5 3FG, 4 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK) stepped up with some quality perimeter play in the first half, and he made things difficult for Nick Young on the other end … Ray McCallum made his NBA debut, playing the final 13 seconds with the game effectively over … Travis Outlaw has now not played in three straight games due to coach’s decision … The Lakers had six players score in double figures.

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