There was a dull first half followed by an explosive third quarter. And as is typically the case, the Sacramento Kings were right in the game going into crunch time. But as they fought to get their first win in Dallas since the days of Keon Clark putbacks, the young Kings again just could not close the deal. Sacramento fought hard against a Mavericks team that is pushing for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, immature mistakes in the closing seconds and the insane ability of Dirk Nowitzki were enough to give the Mavs a 107-103 victory.
FAILING IN THE CLUTCH – Keeping games close for 45 minutes hasn’t been much of a problem for the Kings. It’s the late-game execution that does them in, and it was again a problem in Dallas. Two awful defensive possessions were Sacramento’s downfall. A sweet spin move by Jason Thompson pulled the Kings within two with one minute left. But on the ensuing Mavs possession, Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Acy foolishly and unnecessarily switched, leaving the 5’9″ Thomas no option but to foul Nowitzki. Two Dirk free throws were answered by a Rudy Gay lay-up, forcing the Kings to foul to extend the game. The Kings missed a chance to foul immediately, then watched Nowitzki receive the ball. It’s understandable to not want to foul him, but after he passed, the Kings were late to blitz Vince Carter, who smartly found a wide open Monta Ellis at the rim. Ellis made the gimme and was fouled, giving Dallas a five-point lead with 12 seconds left. Game over. Two mental mistakes on defense…the reason why these games are continually lost by the Kings.
THIRD QUARTER SURGE – After a ho-hum first half where the Kings shot well but never looked clean offensively, Sacramento came out of the halftime break with fire. The Kings turned a five-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead in just 4:30. Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas were the catalysts, and the pair helped the Kings push their lead to as many as 14. Gay (36 MIN, 35 PTS, 10-16 FG, 15-17 FT, 12 REB, 6 AST, 3 TO) was a flame thrower for most of the night, carrying the Kings offense with terrific shooting and a nose for the basket that got him a career-high 17 free throw attempts. Thomas (42 MIN, 19 PTS, 8-21 FG, 3-10 3FG, 6 AST, 3 TO, 2 REB) started slow, but after a second quarter dust-up with Jose Calderon, the Kings point guard was ignited. He scored 13 points in the third quarter and forced Coach Michael Malone to play him the entire second half.
DALLAS DEFENSE WINS OUT – Even if you take away Nowitzki’s unreal shooting ability, the Kings were far too lenient on the defensive end, allowing the Mavericks to get to the basket at will. Conversely, the Mavericks were much more stingy. Dallas, which had just four turnovers, forced 15 on the Kings side and turned those into 18 points. Even with the Kings shooting 50.7 percent for the game, the turnovers, especially early in the game, were the difference in a tight contest.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – DeMarcus Cousins missed his fifth straight game and seems doubtful to play Saturday in San Antonio … Jason Thompson (19 MIN, 8 PTS, 4-7 FG, 4 REB, 5 PF) was a non-factor due to foul trouble. He’s done a solid job on Nowitzki in recent meetings, but never got a chance to establish himself on that end … Jimmer Fredette (6 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-4 FG, 2 AST) was a spark in six first-half minutes, really providing a much-needed lift to a sleepy team. His defense remains a low-point, but offensively, he’s producing and creating for his teammates. He did not play in the second half … Quincy Acy (31 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-4 FG, 6 REB, 2 BLK, 1 STL) got Aaron Gray’s minutes down the stretch, and he earned them. Acy had an extra bounce in his step playing in front of family, and he showed off, ripping home two monster dunks in the first half.