“A Bucket Short: The Story of the 2013-14 Sacramento Kings.” It’s becoming an agonizing event to watch the Kings play. Not because they don’t give 100 percent effort — you really have to commend the guys for fighting tooth and nail and taking quality NBA teams like the San Antonio Spurs to the wire. But they just cannot seal the deal. On Saturday, it was a Kings team playing on the second night of a back-to-back without DeMarcus Cousins against the reigning Western Conference champs. Yet there the young Kings were, toe-to-toe, exchanging blows into the final minute. But much like the Dallas game the night before, a couple of possessions down the stretch told the story. It was the savvy Spurs who made the plays and came out on top, 95-93.
THE FINAL SHOT – If you were already celebrating a Kings victory during their final possession, you can’t be blamed. With Sacramento trailing by one and 12 seconds on the clock, the Kings ran a perfect play that yielded the perfect opportunity. Rudy Gay (37 MIN, 23 PTS, 9-18 FG, 4-7 FT, 7 REB, 6 AST, 5 STL), the team’s hottest hand throughout, received the ball high and dribbled straight to his favorite spot on the court, the right baseline. He’ll hit that shot 99 times out of 100, but that one miss came in San Antonio. His seven-footer bounced long, and Derrick Williams was unable to tip in the rebound. Absolutely demoralizing for a Kings team that battled and was so into the game.
FOURTH QUARTER DOLDRUMS – The final miss by Rudy Gay capped another fourth quarter collapse by a Kings team that led heading into the final frame. The Spurs deserve credit for tightening the screws defensively, holding Sacramento just four made field goals in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Kings went through a phase of poor defense in the middle of the period, allowing Matt Bonner to score seven straight for the Spurs. Things improved on both sides of the ball in the final minutes. Isaiah Thomas hit some clutch shots, while the Kings defense was frenetically contesting everyone on the Spurs. But when it mattered, Tony Parker buried a key triple, and Gay’s response failed.
ISAIAH’S BUSY NIGHT – Isaiah Thomas (38 MIN, 26 PTS, 11-26 FG, 2-9 3FG, 5 AST, 2 TO, 2 REB) looked fatigued at various points in San Antonio, and it’s easy to see why. The Kings point guard has really taken it upon himself — for better or worse — to make up for the loss of Cousins. In the six games missed by DMC, Thomas has averaged a whopping 22.2 field goals and 7.7 three-pointers. Against the Spurs, Thomas had moments of glory, especially down the stretch, but for the most part, he struggled to find consistency with his shot. There aren’t many reliable scoring options on the Kings roster, and Isaiah is still a trusted weapon. But it’s clear he’s being overworked.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS -- With Jimmer Fredette out due to illness, Ray McCallum (10 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-3 FG, 1-1 3FG) provided some solid minutes off the bench behind Isaiah. McCallum worked hard defensively against the quick guards of San Antonio, and he also flashed some decent offensive skills. Wouldn’t hurt to see him get minutes when a better defensive option is needed off the bench … Marcus Thornton (35 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-11 FG, 2 REB) was awful, failing once again to be that much-needed third scoring option. The opportunity was there, the shots were there, and Thornton blew it … The two other Toronto acquisitions continue to fill roles. Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy (Combined: 19 REB in 28 MIN) may not be the most skilled players, but all they do is work hard. Both were strong defensively and on the glass against the Spurs … The Kings turned the ball over just nine times, five coming from Derrick Williams (25 MIN, 14 PTS, 3-5 FG, 7-8 FT) in reserve.