Kings Defense Reaches New Levels of Embarrassment against Atlanta


Dec 18, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks power forward

Elton Brand

(42) and Sacramento Kings point guard

Isaiah Thomas

(22) battle for a loose ball in the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 124-107. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento’s defensive woes continues on Wednesday, hitting new levels of embarrassing in a 124-107 dismantling by the Atlanta Hawks in the second game of the Kings four game road trip.

A night after faltering 95-87 to the Charlotte Bobcats, the Kings already struggling defense was dismantled late. Atlanta shot 58 percent from the field and an absurd 15-25 (60 percent) from three while dishing out 38 assists on their 47 field goals.

Sacramento managed to keep pace for much of the game—they actually lead 87-85 at the beginning of the 4th quarter—but they gave up 39 points in the final period, and their own offense fell apart.

Hawks forward Kyle Korver had 28 points on 10-15 from the field and 8-10 from three to lead Atlanta, while Jeff Teague had 18 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds in the victory. Al Horford had 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Kings, while Rudy Gay added 22 points and Isaiah Thomas had 20 points and 10 assists.

Dec 18, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver (26) shoots a three in the second half against the Sacramento Kings at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 124-107. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Defense Woes Bury Solid Offensive Performance: The Kings offense was, except for the early minutes of the contest, solid. Sacramento shot 47.6 percent from the field and moved the ball effectively with 25 assists to just 13 turnovers. Cousins and Thomas combined for 16 of those assists and there were many moments (highlighted in the third quarter) where Sacramento’s ball movement hit the beautiful level.

Still, no matter how pretty the offense, a 39 point defensive quarter was bound to kill the Kings. Korver was especially dangerous in the final period, hitting on three threes and scoring a combined 11 points. The combination of Rudy Gay, Travis Outlaw and Ben McLemore failed to close out on him numerous times, prompting this postgame comment that Coach Mike Malone needs to frame on every lockerroom in Sacramento –

Thomas Outshone by Teague: Isaiah Thomas (20 points, 10 assists, two turnovers, 7-15 FG) was solid but was easily outmatched by Jeff Teague (18 points, 15 assists, eight rebounds, 6-11 FG). It was the second night in a row where Thomas was obliterated defensively—in Charlotte, Kemba Walker had 24 points and five assists.

The help defense has been atrocious, but Thomas isn’t  helping with solid footing nowadays. He’s proven a better defender in the past and he needs to get back to that level as soon as possible.

McLemore Back on Track?: Rookie Ben McLemore was just as guilty as anyone for the defensive woes, but he was consistent offensively Wednesday. He scored 10 points on 5-6 from the field, a welcome sight after he’d gone 5-28 in his previous four games.

Dec 18, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague (0) shoots the ball between a group of Sacramento Kings players in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Rotation Settling?: Marcus Thornton did not play Wednesday, sacrificing his shooting guard minutes to Travis Outlaw (0 points, 0-4 FG). Meanwhile, the nine minutes where Coach Mike Malone rested Isaiah Thomas went to Jimmer Fredette, who provided a solid spark (9 points, 4-8 FG) but continued  to struggle mightily on defense. Fredette seems to try defensively initially, but his lack of speed quickly wears him down and he seems to concede after that point. Still, that’s more than Thornton offers, so it won’t be a surprise if Malone keeps Thornton on the pine.

Derrick Williams (25 minutes, 12 points, 3-8 FG, 2-4 three, two rebounds) was the best weapon off the bench for the Kings, coming off the bench behind Jason Thompson (four points, seven rebounds, 2-6 FG and three “I didn’t do it!” foul calls tirades).

Only Gets Rougher From Here: While the Bobcats and the Hawks aren’t bad teams (they currently sit 6th and 3rd in the East, respectively) the Kings head to Miami on Friday for a matchup with the two-time champion Heat. The Heat are coming off an impressive 97-94 comeback win over Indiana, and Sacramento will need a 100 percent perfect game to knock off the Champs in Miami.

Other Notes: Rookie Ray McCallum continues to see only limited action—he played just one minute of action at the end of the game with the score way out of hand…No one has apparently told the City of Atlanta that the Hawks are the 3rd best team in the East, and the reported crowd of 10,185 seemed maybe half that…As if Korver carving up the Kings from distance wasn’t enough, forward Paul Milsap (14 points, eight rebounds, 4-10 FG) had three threes.