One step forward, one step back. Guess it’s time to temper those expectations that had suddenly jumped to high levels two days ago. After slamming Dallas with a marvelous performance Monday, the Sacramento Kings returned to the court Wednesday and played easily their worst game of the season against the Utah Jazz. With Rudy Gay still in street clothes, the Kings killed some of the momentum they had built by playing shoddy defense and failing to execute on offense. The Jazz gladly took payback for the overtime loss they suffered at the hands of Sacramento last week. Utah never trailed, dismantling the Kings, 122-101.
DISAPPEARING DEFENSE – The disappointment of being without Gay for another game could be felt throughout the Kings fanbase. But unfortunately, the letdown seemed to trickle onto the court. Sacramento was a step slow on defense the entire game — shooters were left open, players were allowed to cut to the rim unguarded and hard screens gave dribblers open lanes. To the Jazz’s credit, every perimeter player on their team seemed to have the stroke going. Richard Jefferson, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks all torched the Kings from the outside, dashing absolutely any inkling of a comeback attempt.
COUSINS IN TROUBLE – Two early fouls sent DeMarcus Cousins (23 MIN, 21 PTS, 7-14 FG, 7-11 FT, 11 REB, 2 AST, 3 TO) to the bench for most of the first half. There is the question of whether he sat too long, but realistically, a 12-point halftime deficit against Utah should not have been insurmountable. Unfortunately, that lead only grew and with hopes of winning quickly fading, the Kings turned to Cousins to bail them out. The ugliness of the scoreboard clearly frustrated the Kings big man, who took it upon himself to get the team back into it. But not on this night. Cousins, while largely effective, was irritable down low, complaining of too much contact on most possessions. This led to one technical and countless more verbal jabs at officials. Like all Kings, Cousins just never got comfortable in this one, despite his best efforts.
CHEMISTRY BUILDING BETWEEN THOMAS, WILLIAMS – If you’re looking for one positive from a brutal game, the connections made between Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Williams were fun to watch. The pair combined for three alley-oops, and it’s becoming clear that Williams (32 MIN, 13 PTS, 6-11 FG, 7 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 2 TO) knows where to go when Thomas (36 MIN, 20 PTS, 7-13 FG, 5-5 FT, 3 REB, 7 AST, 5 TO) has the ball. This can only bode well for the Kings overall chemistry going forward. Williams is an athletic marvel, and Thomas can help the team get the most from his talent.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Ben McLemore (33 MIN, 4 PTS, 1-8 FG, 2 REB) was a reluctant, poor shooter against Utah. Additionally, he was overmatched on the other end trying to slow the crafty Hayward. Tough for the Kings rookie … Jimmer Fredette (12 MIN, 13 PTS, 4-6 FG, 4-4 FT, 2 REB, 1 AST, 1 TO) was again tabbed to fill the backup point guard hole, and Fredette again struggled to get the team into its offense. There isn’t a teammate on that unit to really help Jimmer handle the ball, meaning that responsibility lands solely on his shoulders. And that’s not the most ideal position for Fredette, but this is the time to give him a shot … Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray sat by the Kings bench. The hope is all will be available for Friday’s game in Phoenix, assuming Greivis Vasquez completes and passes his physical.