What a debacle. Playing without Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins for the third straight game, the Sacramento Kings traveled to Utah to take on the Jazz on Monday. Whereas previous games against Indiana and Denver simply came down to the Kings not having the weapons to compete, the Jazz game should have been winnable. Unfortunately, Sacramento came out of the halftime break in a daze. A tie game after two quarters quickly turned ugly, as the Kings fell apart on both ends of the court. Sacramento made the Jazz look like a playoff team, and Utah skated with a 106-99 victory.
TERRIBLE DEFENSIVE EXECUTION – The Kings defense was embarrassing and had Coach Michael Malone stewing on the sideline throughout the game. Sacramento was frequently beat off the dribble which resulted in other defenders making terrible, unneccessary switches. The Kings foolishly collapsed the paint or dropped to help without reason. It didn’t take long for Utah to recognize that one screen could open up shooters across the floor. The Kings survived the first half thanks to some poor Utah shooting, but once the Jazz got comfortable, it was bombs away.
ISAIAH LEAVES, OFFENSE DISSOLVES – Sacramento’s offense was already struggling even with Isaiah Thomas on the floor. Thomas (25 MIN, 10 PTS, 4-13 FG, 6 AST, 2 REB, 0 TO) was one of many shooters who couldn’t find the touch, as the Kings limped to a 38 percent mark in the first half. But when Thomas left in the third quarter due to illness, things really took a dive. With their three main scoring options out, the Kings looked completely lost with no real direction or concept of what to do offensively.
MALONE GETS CRAFTY TO CLOSE LATE – You could never accuse Coach Malone of throwing in the towel. The Kings fell behind by 20 points with 7:28 to go. But rather than call it a night, Malone worked every angle to get his team back in it. After the Kings closed closed the gap to 11 with 3:21 left, the Kings started to intentionally foul the Jazz’s poor free throw shooters, Rudy Gobert and Jeremy Evans. The strategy worked, the pair went 4-for-10 from the line and Utah’s comfortable grip on the game became shaky. Sacramento pulled all the way to within five points in the final minute before coming up short, but it was encouraging to at least see them fight to the finish.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Jason Thompson was easily the Kings best player in this one. Thompson (28 MIN, 19 PTS, 7-10 FG, 5-6 FT, 11 REB, 2 BLK) nearly posted a double-double in the first quarter and really established himself as a reliable post scorer in a game where offense was hard to come by … Derrick Williams (17 PTS, 5-13 FG, 6-8 FT, 15 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK) played a team-high 38 minutes and again showed a great ability to clean the glass. His offense was less productive, as he missed a handful of shots around the basket … Ben McLemore (25 MIN, 14 PTS, 6-12 FG, 9 REB, 2 AST, 3 TO) built on his strong performance against Denver with another solid effort in Utah. The rookie helped the Kings close the deficit late with 10 points in the final 4:39 … Travis Outlaw (24 MIN, 10 PTS, 3-9 FG, 2-3 3FG, 2 REB, 1 STL) got the start over Aaron Gray as Sacramento attempted to match up with Utah’s smaller lineup.