For the second time in as many games on this road trip, the Sacramento Kings looked like a disinterested bunch. Against an emerging Washington Wizards team, the Kings effort simply wasn’t close to good enough. Rudy Gay returned from illness but still looked a step slow, and he joined DeMarcus Cousins as Kings studs who provided nothing toward securing a victory. The Wizards turned up the defensive pressure and capitalized on their offensive opportunities en route to a 93-84 win.
COUSINS DOMINATED BY WIZ BIGS – It’s time to wonder whether DeMarcus Cousins (39 MIN, 14 PTS, 3-16 FG, 8-9 FT, 12 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK, 4 TO) is another victim of the flu bug that has been making its way through the team because his play on Sunday was awful. Against Boston, Cousins looked a bit sluggish, but it’s hard to complain when a guy drops 31 and 16. Against the Wizards, DMC just looked lifeless — low on energy, slow to react defensively, and always the last one up the floor on offense. After his own lackluster defense dominated the first half, Cousins could be seen and heard ripping into his own teammates for a perceived defensive breakdown. Not a good look for a guy playing terrible in his own right. Nene and Marcin Gortat were able to keep Cousins away from the basket, rendering DMC close to useless offensively. The Kings made their best run in the fourth quarter with Cousins on the bench. The Kings do-it-all big man is certainly entitled to an off night after carrying the team so much. But the concerning thing in Washington was the lack of energy.
ISAIAH TRIES TO LEAD – With Gay (32 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-11 FG, 4 REB, 4 AST, 4 TO) and Cousins combining for just five made field goals, Isaiah Thomas (43 MIN, 30 PTS, 11-24 FG, 8-8 FT, 3 REB, 8 AST, 3 STL, 4 TO) did his best to pick up the slack. Isaiah was a willing passer, but with little help, he relied on his own scoring to keep the Kings in it. Thomas clearly outplayed John Wall, frequently finding himself with open looks inside the perimeter. And on a team that was so low on energy, it was a welcomed sight to see Thomas be his usual spirited self, giving 110% for the duration of the game. He needed one running mate to help shoulder the load.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF MCLEMORE – If you took a poll among Kings fans, results would probably be split as to the long-term potential of Ben McLemore. It’s obvious the young guard is a work-in-progress, but there were some nice flashes in Washington. McLemore (25 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-12 FG, 6 REB, 1 STL, 1 TO) received a bulk of the shooting guard minutes and really responded aggressively. It was great to see him attack the basket, scoring on two nifty dribble drives in the fourth quarter as the Kings fought to get back in the game. On the perimeter, he showed some patience, not settling for long bombs and instead getting more comfortable for his jump shot. There were mistakes — his ball-handling remains a weakness and while he plays decent man-to-man defense, he has a bad habit of rotating off shooters (Martell Webster on Sunday). But there are encouraging signs from the rookie.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Quincy Acy (15 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-2 FG, 7 REB, 3 STL) threw down a monster dunk over Gortat in the third quarter that may have woken up some sleepy Kings teammates. The dunk sparked a 17-6 Kings run that pulled the team within four points … The offense again crumbled when Jimmer Fredette (5 MIN, 2 PTS, 0-1 FG, 1 TO) was inserted in the first half, prompting Coach Michael Malone to ride Isaiah for the entire second half … Marcus Thornton (23 MIN, 6 PTS, 2-7 FG, 1 REB, 1 TO) returned after one game away. He made his first two shots, both triples, then missed his final five attempts before giving way to McLemore down the stretch … The Kings shot a meager 35.4 percent from the field … Kentucky coach John Calipari sat courtside, watching two of his former players in Wall and Cousins.