Small mistakes snowball for Kings in narrow loss to Clippers

Small mistakes snowball for Kings in narrow loss to Clippers

SACRAMENTO -- Sometimes it comes down to just one play. A bad bounce. A skip off the rim. A tipped ball that slips through your fingers.

The Sacramento Kings didn’t play a perfect game Friday night as they fell 106-98 to the Los Angeles Clippers at Golden 1 Center. In fact, the second quarter was one of the worst 12 minutes of basketball they have played all season.

But with 23.9 seconds remaining in the game, Sacramento had a shot. They trailed 100-98 to a very good Clippers team and one play decided the outcome of the game.

DeMarcus Cousins beat his man off the dribble and when help came, he tried to find Gay under the basket. The pass didn’t find its destination. Instead, it found the Clippers Chris Paul.

It’s impossible to fault Cousins for the late turnover. He was being unselfish, like he had been for much of the game. His team-leading seven assists can attest to that.

“The ball’s in his hands, we trust him to make decisions,” Rudy Gay said of DeMarcus Cousins and the deciding play. “There’s a lot of guys in the paint. I would have rather him shoot it to be honest with you, but it is what it is. We trust him to make the right play and usually he does.”

If Cousins had it back, he probably would have gone up for the lay-in. Or maybe not. It wasn’t a bad play, just a bad outcome.

“It was a solid play,” Darren Collison said. “We live with Cuz down the stretch. Whatever plays he decides to make. He’s been winning a lot of games for us down the stretch since I’ve been here. Every once in awhile it may not go too well, but he tried to make a play. That’s all you can ask for.”

Garrett Temple was forced to foul Chris Paul, who knocked down the two free throws. The Kings struggled to get a good shot twice more, fouling Paul on each occasion. He scored six points at the line in the final 22.7 seconds of the game to give the Clippers the eight point win.

It shouldn’t have come down to one play. The Kings had plenty of opportunities to turn the tide earlier in the quarter, but they struggled to hit shots with the game on the line. Sacramento shot just 37.5 percent in the quarter and were outscored 31-25 by Los Angeles in the fourth.

“If we’re trying to make the playoffs, this is something we have to learn from,” Collison said. “If we’re going to be able to make a run, we have to beat teams down the stretch. They’re not going to beat themselves. You’ve got to beat them. You’ve got to beat them by executing.”

This is a growing trend with this Kings team. Small mistakes seem to snowball into much bigger situations. A two point lead finds its way to five or six and then the game is out of control.

With the loss, Sacramento fell to 15-21 on the season. They return to Golden 1 Center Sunday evening to face a Golden State Warriors team that is fresh off a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night at Oracle Arena.

JOERGER GOES SMALL

Dave Joerger loves his big man lineup. More than once this season he’s hinted that he would mix things up, only to revert right back to a starting group that included both Cousins and 7-footer Kosta Koufos. And then he threw a curveball Friday night against the Clippers.

For one of the few times this season, Joerger went small with his first unit, inserting Ty Lawson into the starting point guard spot alongside Collison, Gay, Cousins and Matt Barnes.

“I thought it was effective, it was more spacing on the court,” Collison said following the loss. “I thought me and Ty operated pretty well with one another. We were able to get in the paint and create shots for each other and the rest of our teammates. Anytime we have that much space, it’s so much easier to get into the paint.”

The Kings used the newfound spacing to attack the Clippers, jumping out to an early 29-19 lead after 12 minutes of play. They shot 12-of-24 from the field and posted a 7-to-1 assist to turnover ratio in the quarter.

Collison finished the night with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and added five rebounds in 35 minutes. Lawson dropped in 17 points and six assists. The addition of a second ball handler with the starting group helped Sacramento bolster their assist-to-turnover rate to 23-to-7 on the night.

There is no word on whether this was a permanent move or a one off for Joerger and his staff.

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings showed their age Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. They couldn’t buy a basket early. They could do no wrong in the second and third quarters. And when the chips were down, they couldn’t stop a charging Utah Jazz team from pulling away for the 112-82 blowout.

Utah led by as many as 20 in the first quarter and it looked like it was going to be a long night. The Kings shot just 31.6 percent in the game’s first 12 minutes and they allowed the Jazz to knock down 5-of-11 3-pointers early.

“We started off slow and in a hole and tried to come back,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.

The Jazz pushed the lead to 24 in the opening minutes of the second quarter and then Ben McLemore happened. The fourth-year guard went off for 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the second as the Kings cut Utah’s lead to just seven at the intermission.

“It’s nice to see him back in there and getting rhythm and feeling good about himself,” Dave Joerger said of McLemore. “He is able at his size to get off of people that are holding. With his athleticism, he can be an effective cutter and he can be an effective pin down player.”

The 24-year-old wing finished the night with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but he was one of just three Kings players to notch double-figure scoring as the ball movement dried up for long stretches.

Utah made adjustments in the second half to slow McLemore and the Kings did a poor job of responding. They over dribbled the ball, leading to just 14 assists on the night.

The Jazz on the other hand looked like a finely oiled machine. With big man Rudy Gobert anchoring the post, they made cuts at the rim and found open shooters all around the perimeter.  

“They hit shots, a lot of shots, a lot of threes,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “That breaks the game wide open when you’re hitting threes and a lot of stuff is going in.”

Sharpshooter Rodney Hood dropped in 5-of-5 from long range, scoring 18 points in just 24 minutes of play. Gordon Hayward knocked down 3-of-5 from deep for a team-high 20 points. Overall, Utah outscored the Kings 39-6 from 3-point range.

Despite the rough start and the barrage of 3-point makes by the Jazz, Sacramento cut Utah’s lead to just two midway through the third quarter. And then the playoff bound Jazz dropped a 52-24 run on Sacramento to finish the night off.

Joerger allowed his core of young players plenty of time on the floor. Skal Labissiere played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss, coming away with nine points and seven rebounds.  

“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Labissiere said. “It’s the best way to learn to be out there against guys like that. Whenever I’m out there, I’m always learning something. I just try to give my best.”

Rookie Georgios Papagiannis added eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes and Buddy Hield struggled for one of the few times in a Kings uniform, scoring just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

It’s a process. With the playoff chatter over and done with, the Kings are bound to have a few more night’s like this in the final seven games of the season as they transition to a full youth movement.

 

Instant Replay: Kings fight back, but succumb to Jazz

Instant Replay: Kings fight back, but succumb to Jazz

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- After winning two straight, the Sacramento Kings came out flat and the Utah Jazz made them pay. The Jazz quieted the crowd early, pushing their lead to 24 points in the second quarter, but the Kings bounced back to make it a game. In the end, Utah had too much firepower, coming away with the 112-82 victory.

All-Star Gordon Hayward used his height advantage at the wing to punish the Kings. Hayward scored 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting and added seven rebounds in the win.

Rudy Gobert pounded the Kings in the paint, finishing the night with 16 points and 15 rebounds.  

Rodney Hood knocked down 5-for-5 from behind the arc on his way to 17 points. Shelvin Mack shot 5-of-8 from the field for 14 points and Joe Ingles finished with 12 points and five assists off Quin Snyder’s bench.

There is no quit in Ben McLemore. The fourth-year guard has an uncertain in Sacramento after this season, so he made sure to put on a show for anyone who might be interested in his services. McLemore dropped in 17 of his 22 points in a wild first half run that got Sacramento back into the game.

Darren Collison was one of the few Kings to find success early as the Jazz built their big lead. The veteran point  guard finished the night with 12 points and one assist.

Willie Cauley-Stein didn’t back down from Gobert. The second-year 7-footer managed to score seven points and grab a team-high eight rebounds in the loss.

Ty Lawson came off Dave Joerger’s bench to score 11 points and dish out three assists. Skal Labissiere shook of a slow start to score nine points and grab seven rebounds, while rookie Georgios Papagiannis chipped in eight points.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
McLemore caught fire. He singlehandedly stopped the Kings from getting blown out in the first half with his 7-of-8 shooting performance before the intermission.

TURNING POINT:
Sacramento managed to make it a game in the third quarter, clawing all the way back to within one point. The Jazz responded to take a 78-67 lead into the fourth and then put the Kings away.

INJURY UPDATE:
Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos sat for scheduled rest. Arron Afflalo missed the game due to a personal matter. Rookie Malachi Richardson is officially out for the season with a right hamstring thickness tear. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings travel to New Orleans where they’ll face DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday evening. They’ll fly to Minnesota following the game to play the Timberwolves as part of a back-to-back.