When you play in Memphis against the Grizzlies, you have to expect an ugly game. In recent years, the Sacramento Kings have found little success, consistently succumbing to the Grizzlies harsh defense. But Friday night, the Kings took their confident, rebuilt roster into Memphis and really gave the home team a battle. A seven-point lead with under seven minutes to play looked promising. But a late game collapse, with some calls that infuriated the Kings, helped the Grizzlies continue their dominance over Sacramento, as Memphis squeaked out a 91-90 win.
CAN’T CLOSE IT OUT – Memphis finished the game on a 10-2 run, and that was a shame because the Kings looked primed to steal another road victory. An Isaiah Thomas (39 MIN, 14 PTS, 5-14 FG, 9 AST, 3 REB, 3 TO) triple with 6:37 left gave Sacramento a seven-point advantage, and it appeared the Kings may have enough offensive weapons to close it out. Unfortunately, the Kings mustered just six points the rest of the way, as the defensive-minded Grizzlies took it up a notch. Mike Conley added some crafty conversions offensively to rip away the victory. The Kings offense really found nothing that worked. Rudy Gay (37 MIN, 19 PTS, 7-18 FG, 5-5 FT, 4 REB, 3 AST, 4 TO) missed some mid-range jumpers, Thomas couldn’t penetrate and DeMarcus Cousins was hounded by Marc Gasol. Credit the Memphis defense, one of the best in the NBA.
KINGS FEEL SLIGHTED – I’ve been critical of referees in Kings games over the past few weeks, mostly for interfering too much with ticky-tack fouls. But despite the outrage from the Kings and many fans, I didn’t think the refs stole this one from Sacramento. They missed an egregious foul on Isaiah Thomas on a breakaway where he was yanked to the ground by the arm. But the Kings final chance, which came with 15 seconds left, was more good defense from the Grizz. The Kings failed to get into any play set in that time, and I haven’t seen an angle that showed Gay being fouled on his last second chance. Referee Marc Davis foolishly blew the whistle, and either chickened out of calling a foul or totally screwed up by ruling a jump ball. The sequence led Coach Michael Malone into storming the court, proclaiming Davis a “coward” multiple times. At the end of the day, I love Coach’s fire, but you just have to execute better. Two points in the final four minutes of a tight game won’t get it done.
COUSINS VS. GASOL – Maybe the most enjoyable aspect of the game was a matchup between two of the best centers in basketball, DeMarcus Cousins and Marc Gasol. The two clearly have mutual respect for each other as evidence by their running, jovial dialogue during the game. Cousins (40 MIN, 22 PTS, 6-20 FG, 10-13 FT, 17 REB, 1 BLK, 2 TO) found out why Gasol was Defensive Player of the Year last season, as the Grizzlies big man made sure Cousins worked for everything he got. DMC had a really positive showing, staying aggressive despite a lack of success, and instead getting to the line to get his points. He did have six shot attempts blocked by Grizzlies defenders, and Gasol was also very effective offensively, but Cousins more than held his own in the premier matchup.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Gay’s return to Memphis featured a quiet first half, but he came alive in the fourth, scoring Sacramento’s first eight points of the quarter. Unfortunately, he missed four of his last five shots, and in a one-point game, that stings … Jason Thompson (28 MIN, 10 PTS, 5-7 FG, 6 REB, 1 BLK) deserves a ton of credit for his defensive work on Zach Randolph. JT had to physically battle for position with Randolph on nearly every possession, but Randolph managed just 12 points in 36 minutes … The hardly-recognizable former Kings forward James Johnson played 21 minutes for Memphis, and his long-range chucks and out-of-control dribble drives certainly brought back some memories … Wasn’t a big fan of taking out Derrick Williams (26 MIN, 10 PTS, 4-7 FG, 5 REB, 1 STL) for Marcus Thornton in the fourth quarter. The Kings under utilized Williams, who had guards Nick Calathes and Courtney Lee guarding him on many occasions. With the team struggling for points, that would have been a good matchup to exploit. Thornton (25 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-4 FG) again provided very little offensively.