Mar 29, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Ray McCallum (3) steals the ball from Dallas Mavericks forward Jae Crowder (9) during the second half at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Kings 103-100. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Kings fight hard, bow out late in Dallas

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Mar 29, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion (0) shoots over Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) and forward Jason Thompson (34) during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to expect a young, shorthanded Sacramento Kings team to win on the road against the Dallas Mavericks. And no, that doesn’t make the mounting losses any easier to take. But the effort the Kings brought to the floor Saturday in Dallas, primarily in the second half, was something to be proud of. The first half was forgettable, but rather than mail it in, Sacramento tried to play spoiler. A 12-point halftime deficit was completely erased by a spirited Kings side, led by rookie point guard Ray McCallum. In the end, Dallas’ veteran leaders made more plays, and the Kings made their usual crunch time miscues. But not a bad showing in the 103-100 loss.

MCCALLUM SPARKS THE TEAM – It was a coming-out party for Ray McCallum, who got another start with Isaiah Thomas sidelined. McCallum (48 MIN, 16 PTS, 7-17 FG, 2-4 3FG, 4 REB, 8 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TO) was a bit tentative in the first half, but he finally started looking for his own offense in the second. McCallum played strong defense and helped turn that into offense. His crowning play was an aggressive double-down and steal that he pushed up the court and capped with a nice lefty lay-up. He also flashed a nice stroke from the perimeter and kept the Kings offense running much smoother than it did a night ago in OKC. McCallum played the entire game in Dallas, making his gritty performance even more impressive. You have to expect that Sacramento will still look to bring in a veteran point guard this offseason (in addition to Isaiah’s hopeful return), but Ray Mac has handled himself very well and looks to have a future in the league.

THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF GAY – Rudy Gay (43 MIN, 30 PTS, 11-19 FG, 8-10 FT, 7 REB, 7 TO) was the Kings most reliable scorer, leading the team with 30 points. He did so with a combination of strong dribble drives and foul-inducing takes. Unfortunately, Gay got the Kings into a lot of trouble with a total disregard for the ball. It wasn’t even a case of Gay forcing his own offense; the Kings small forward just got sloppy with his passes. In a game that came down to three points, Gay’s seven turnovers were tough to swallow.

COUSINS PLOWS FORWARD – DeMarcus Cousins (28 MIN, 17 PTS, 8-15 FG, 1-3 FT, 7 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 3 TO) was on the receiving end of some questionable calls — the call on him for an illegal screen while holding the ball was terrible. And not that he was without fault for some of the first half struggles, but it also had to be hard to watch his team lay a goose egg for 24 minutes. To DMC’s credit, he kept his cool and plowed forward. He abandoned the outside jumper and really did his offensive damage where he should — down low, around the basket. The rigors of a long, losing season are taking their toll on everyone, fans included. It’s nice to see Cousins maintain his composure and just play ball.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS – It was vintage Reggie Evans (29 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-5 FG, 18 REB, 2 STL) in Dallas. The Kings starting power forward was a rebounding monster. His 18 helped the Kings to a 47-35 advantage on the boards … Jason Thompson’s decent game was sullied by a poor two-play sequence down the stretch. With the Kings up 89-87, Thompson (28 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-7 FG, 5 REB, 3 STL, 1 BLK) forced a tough shot out of his comfort zone and committed a poor foul on Dirk Nowitzki 11 seconds later that put the Mavs star on the line … Ben McLemore (33 MIN, 10 PTS, 4-9 FG, 2 REB, 2 AST, 2 TO) was quiet. Maybe it was just a case of tired legs, but McLemore was far less aggressive than he has been in recent games … Sacramento shot 51.9 percent from the field but just 68.4 percent (13-of-19) from the line.

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