Winners of three straight, the confident Sacramento Kings got perhaps the toughest test there is in the NBA today — an away matchup against the league’s best defensive squad, the Indiana Pacers. The Kings showed better than the final score indicated, but clearly, they are no match for the Pacers, who moved to 19-1 at home. Indiana leaned on its stout defense to shut down most of the Kings threats, while Paul George was outstanding as the Pacers prime scorer. Sacramento kicked off its six-game road trip with a 116-92 loss.
THE KINGS DOWNFALL – Going against one of the NBA’s title contenders proved too much for the Kings. The Pacers are a well-oiled machine, and they showed it offensively by attacking the rim after every Kings mistake. Indiana shot 54.9 percent from the floor, benefiting from 22 points off of 15 Kings turnovers. The Pacers set pieces were equally as effective, as the team showed great ball movement (24 assists). For the Kings, outside of DeMarcus Cousins, the team managed just one double-digit scorer. Sacramento failed to convert from the perimeter (4-for-13 3FG) and the line (10-for-17 FT), and when you play a top dog, it has to be better.
ELIMINATING ISAIAH – The Kings go as Isaiah Thomas goes, and against the Pacers, Sacramento’s point guard found no room to work. Indiana made every play difficult for the Kings spark plug. Thomas (27 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-9 FG, 1 AST, 3 TO) struggled to get into the lane and when he did penetrate, he failed to finish around the basket. Outside, Thomas rarely got a clean look. As a result of the Pacers suffocating defense on the ball, the whole Kings offense ground to a halt. Thomas couldn’t create his own looks or many for his teammates, and that was a huge problem for Sacramento.
COUSINS TERRIFIC IN DEFEAT – DeMarcus Cousins took full advantage of a national television showcase against a formidable opponent. Despite the struggles of his teammates, Cousins (30 MIN, 31 PTS, 12-21 FG, 7-7 FT, 13 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TO) was a beast, never moreso than the third quarter when he put the Kings on his back in an attempt to salvage the game. DMC posted a double-double…in the third quarter alone, dropping 19 points and ripping 10 rebounds in one of his best performances of the season. If Cousins could have gotten one sidekick to step up, the Kings may have been able to challenge Indiana or at least keep it closer. But unfortunately, it was Cousins against the world, and to his credit, he kept his cool and was right on par with the Pacers star Paul George. His numbers are even more impressive when you consider he didn’t play the fourth quarter.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – George really broke the Kings back with a buzzer-beating triple at the end of the third quarter, followed by a three to open the fourth. That sequence effectively buried the Kings … Sacramento’s second unit had a terrific showing in the first half, led by the suddenly capable Jimmer Fredette (21 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-10 FG, 4 REB, 4 AST, 1 TO). Fredette, Derrick Williams (25 MIN, 9 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK) and Quincy Acy (23 MIN, 6 PTS, 4 REB, 1 BLK) showed great chemistry and energy, and the trio sparked the Kings from a five-point deficit to a two-point lead (the Kings last of the game) … Shooting guard: still not happening for the Kings. Thornton (28 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-7 FG, 4 REB), while still seemingly capable of awakening at any moment, is currently a lost cause, while Ben McLemore (19 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-9 FG, 3 REB) needs to change his approach. He’s struggling mightily with his catch-and-shoot.