For once, it wasn’t the Sacramento Kings defense that let them down. Much like their first meeting in Sacramento, the Kings held the Chicago Bulls relatively in check and displayed the effort needed on that end to get a win. Unfortunately, most other aspects necessary for victory were missing — shot-making, late game execution and free throw conversions. The Kings, once again, were right there at the end, a few plays away from taking down a quality opponent. But unsurprisingly, it was the Bulls who came through and pulled out a 94-87 win, leaving the Kings disappointed yet again.
LATE-GAME SHORTCOMINGS – When the Kings fell behind by eight with 2:01 left, it looked like curtains for Sacramento. Credit to the Kings, they kept fighting and pulled quickly to within one possession. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make the plays when needed. Down by three, the Kings got the stop they needed but were unable to grab the rebound, allowing Chicago to push the lead back to five with 1:05 left. On the Bulls next possession, Jason Thompson, who otherwise was a workhorse down the stretch, collapsed too far on a harmless Joakim Noah dribble drive. This resulted in a Taj Gibson jumper. After Isaiah Thomas cut the deficit again to three with 29 seconds left, the Kings point guard inexplicably intentionally fouled Kirk Hinrich, rather than play out the possession and go for the stop. After one Hinrich free throw, the Kings dialed up a perfect play, but Ben McLemore, who struggled all game long, missed an open look from downtown. A missed rebound, a defensive lapse, a brain cramp and a missed shot — four plays in crunch time that buried Sacramento.
OFFENSIVE INEFFICIENCY – The Kings really relied on their defense to stay in the game because their offense was a mess. One thing they did well was get to the line, creating 37 opportunities from the stripe. But the Kings missed 14 of those (62.2 percent), a pivotal stat in such a close game. Sacramento found little success from the field, shooting 36.5 percent and hitting just 2-of-14 from three-point range (Ben McLemore was 0-of-7). The Bulls deserve credit for a lot of that, as they made offense difficult for the Kings inside and out. Sacramento, however, has no excuse for the free throw misses.
COUSINS BATTLES NOAH – There may be no hotter center in the NBA right now than Joakim Noah, but DeMarcus Cousins (38 MIN, 25 PTS, 10-21 FG, 5-7 FT, 14 REB, 2 AST, 4 STL, 1 BLK, 5 TO) showed why he shouldn’t be ignored. There were still a few instances of Cousins letting a lack of whistles take him out of the ensuing defensive possession. But for the most part, DMC was a beast who overpowered Noah on a number of occasions. Cousins did his best work down the stretch, as he tried to will the Kings to victory with some inspired interior play. Cousins scored 18 points in the second half. The effort wasn’t rewarded, but Cousins did his best to carry a struggling Sacramento offense.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – This wasn’t a game for McLemore (36 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-12 FG, 6 REB, 2 TO) that could be blamed on being a rookie. He just continually missed open looks, and that’s frustrating. He isn’t asked to do much, but knocking down more open threes is a must … The Kings bench shot 4-for-18 from the floor and 4-for-11 from the free throw line … Isaiah Thomas (42 MIN, 26 PTS, 7-18 FG, 2-5 3FG, 10-13 FT, 3 REB, 5 AST, 4 TO) led the Kings in scoring, and he really had to work hard against some tough Bulls defense from Hinrich, D.J. Augustin and even Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter … Sacramento cleaned the glass with a 55-40 rebounding advantage and 19 offensive boards.