The Sacramento Kings couldn’t hold on tonight, losing 89-87 in a hard-fought game that came down to the final possession.
Memphis is the best defensive team in the league, and they had their hands full with a Kings team that set the tone from the start of the game.
The Kings played at a slower tempo and kept pace with the Grizzlies in a slower game, one that was a battle from the opening seconds of the game. Memphis was coming off a loss in L.A. that ended in a similar fashion as this game. The Memphis Grizzlies were the victims of a no call in a late game situation. The Kings were the victims tonight however, and showed their youth.
The Kings played a solid game, and played very well together. While the game was not as high-scoring as the Kings previous contests, the Kings managed to score in a variety of ways.
Isaiah Thomas seemed like an entirely different player Sunday than in Friday’s loss to Dallas. Thomas seemed determined from the start of the game to find his teammates and help initiate the offense on almost every play he was a part of. Thomas played a very balanced game, dishing out eight assists and scoring 18 points.
Chuck Hayes was perhaps the only person on the Kings who could slow down Zack Randolph. Hayes held Randolph 9 points on 4 of 13 shooting. Hayes added 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 4 points. Hayes has shown his ability to be a valuable defender who, while undersized, is more than capable of slowing power forwards down.
Toney Douglas was a major factor in the Kings staying in the game, as he was a defensive force who provided a huge spark off the bench. Douglas had 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals.
Kings head coach Keith Smart left several fans scratching their heads after this game, as his substitution patterns were very questionable. With Isaiah Thomas heating up early in the fourth quarter, Smart substituted Jimmer Fredette for Thomas after Thomas had made his last 3 straight shots. Jimmer scored 13 points in 15 minutes on 3 of 7 shooting, but he turned the ball over 4 times and didn’t record a single assist.
While Tyreke Evans struggled offensively, Evans could have been a key play maker in the final seconds, as the Kings final play broke down, and ended with Marcus Thornton taking a contested shot which ended up being blocked by Marc Gasol.
Both Thornton and Cousins played less than half of the final quarter. Smart chose to go with an inexperienced, undersized lineup for a majority of the fourth quarter and potentially cost his team the victory. I have been hesitant to call Smart’s coaching methods into question all season, and while Keith Smart is hands down the best coach the Kings have had since Rick Adelman, Smart hasn’t been able to find a consistent lineup for late game situations.
Smart has been questioned by several of his players, and has had several verbal altercations with DeMarcus Cousins. While Cousins is known to have maturity issues, Cousins has also shown improvement this season, and could be seen smiling, and even joking, with Memphis Grizzlies players during Sunday’s game. Cousins finished with 22 points, 9 rebounds and a steal in 29 minutes.
Cousins maintained his composure several times as he was hit by Marc Gasol’s elbows multiple times throughout the contest. The Kings big man was understandably frustrated after a no call situation on a drive to the basket in a key game situation. Cousins was clearly fouled, but has to understand that when he goes to the basket late in games, he must go hard to the basket, and look to score no matter what the call. Cousins looked as if he was going for the dunk but was clearly pushed in the back and forced to take an off-balance shot.
While the Kings played a solid game, they couldn’t overcome a poor shooting night, shooting a dismal 35.8 percent from the field. The Kings managed to keep the game close and made several runs late in the game, but unfortunately, they came up short.