The Sacramento Kings started their season’s home stretch Wednesday against Golden State with low expectations. The earlier trade of Marcus Thornton not only left the team slightly undermanned, but it also signified a change in mindset. The talk afterward was more of getting young guys minutes and less of winning now. With DeMarcus Cousins sidelined due to a hip injury, the young Kings ventured out against a talented Warriors team. Despite the stacked deck, Sacramento battled hard, but the mistakes of an immature team were glaring on both ends of the court. Golden State withstood a Kings rally and came away with a 101-92 victory.
SLOPPY OFFENSE DOOMS KINGS – It’s important to first credit Golden State for playing terrific defense, forcing the Kings into several bad shots and many possessions without even getting a look. But Sacramento dug its own hole with some poor execution. Early on, things snowballed on the Kings, who fell into a nasty streak of awful passing leading to Warriors fastbreaks. Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay, recognizing the offensive troubles, attempted to shoulder the load. Thomas (42 MIN, 26 PTS, 9-17 FG, 2-6 3FG, 6-7 FT, 4 REB, 7 AST, 7 TO) found late success after a poor first half, willing the Kings back in the third quarter with some incredible plays. But Gay (37 MIN, 16 PTS, 6-21 FG, 8 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 3 BLK, 4 TO) struggled to get going against Andre Iguodala and forced too many shots. Even with little production from three-fifths of the lineup, the Kings still overdribbled and failed to move the ball effectively. It was a chore trying to score for Sacramento, and an ugly 13 assist/21 turnover ratio is largely to blame.
DEFENSIVE MISTAKES – It was clear that the Kings emphasized taking away the Warriors potent three-point shooters, but Golden State is one of the better offenses in the league. The Warriors picked apart the Kings overplays. When Sacramento showed high on Stephen Curry, Curry simply dished to the screener, usually David Lee, who attacked the rim or found another open player around the basket. The Kings had no answer and were often way too late to switch. Golden State connected on just three triples but scored 52 points in the paint.
TRADE CREATES OPPORTUNITY – With Thornton on his way to Brooklyn, a few Kings got some additional run. Ben McLemore (19 MIN, 4 PTS, 1-4 FG, 4 REB, 5 PF) failed to capitalize in his return to the starting lineup, plagued by foul trouble all night. His backup, Travis Outlaw, was a huge bright spot for the team, keeping the Kings within shouting distance in the first half. As one of the only Kings who can create his own shot thanks to his great extension, Outlaw (33 MIN, 18 PTS, 6-11 FG, 3-4 3FG, 5 REB, 2 STL, 2 TO) was able to succeed against the tough Warriors defense. Ray McCallum (12 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-3 FG, 2 REB, 1 TO) also saw meaningful minutes, spending time at the point and off the ball next to Isaiah. Ray Mac deserves to get a strong look the rest of the year. There are developable skills there — against GSW, McCallum was a conscious defender and while his offense wasn’t stellar, he at least showed aggression with some penetrating moves.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Those hoping for a repeat performance from Jimmer Fredette were disappointed. Jimmer (4 MIN, 3 PTS, 1-3 FG, 2 TO) was bottled up by the Warriors in a brief four-minute first-half stint, and his sloppy ball-handling led to his benching … Carl Landry (21 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-7 FG, 5 REB) got the start for Cousins and showed nice touch on his midrange jumper. It will be interesting to see how Coach Michael Malone handles his frontcourt rotation with (barring trade) Jason Thompson, Landry, Quincy Acy, Derrick Williams and Reggie Evans … Acy (26 MIN, 4 PTS, 2-2 FG, 12 REB, 2 TO) led the charge on the glass, and the Kings outrebounded the Warriors, 49-35. Of the Kings boards, 15 were offensive, as Sacramento worked hard for second chances.