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.

Kings could lose 2017 first-round pick obtained in Cousins trade

Kings could lose 2017 first-round pick obtained in Cousins trade

The highly touted 2017 NBA Draft is four months away and the Sacramento Kings have gone from a team with no stake in the conversation to a franchise with plenty of possibilities. Like everything else in Sacramento, it’s complicated. The Kings could have zero, one or two first round picks in the upcoming draft.

Kings Pick

All the way back on June 30 of 2011, Geoff Petrie dealt a protected first round pick (2012-2017) along with Omri Casspi to the Cleveland Cavaliers for power forward J.J. Hickson. Hickson didn’t even make it through the season with the Kings. After attempting to deal him at the trade deadline and finding no takers, Petrie waived Hickson on March 12, 2012.

The Cavs used the pick as part of a larger package to obtain forward Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 6, 2014. Chicago has waited patiently to use the pick, but per the original trade, if the selection falls in the Top 10 this season (post lottery), it is not relayed this season and it becomes a protected second round pick. If the pick falls in the between selections 56-60 (mathematically unlikely at this point), the Kings keep the second round pick as well and the original trade is satisfied.

To complicate matters, if the pick falls between 1-10 this season and the Kings retain the selection, the Philadelphia 76ers have the right to swap picks. The pick swap stems from the July 9, 2015 trade that sent Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Nik Stauskas, a protected first round selection (now an unprotected 2019 first round selection) and the rights to swap picks in 2016 and 2017 for the rights to Arturas Gudaitis, Luka Mitrovic and a future second round pick. The Sixers currently have the fifth worst record in the NBA.

What does it mean?

If the Kings make the playoffs, the pick is instantly relayed to the Chicago Bulls. If the Kings miss the playoffs, but land 11, 12, 13 or 14 in the draft following the lottery, the Bulls get the pick. If Sacramento lands anywhere in the Top 10 following the lottery, they retain the pick, but the Sixers have the opportunity to swap selections.

Pelicans Pick

On Feb 20, 2017, the Kings traded All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins, along with forward Omri Casspi (again) to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a protected first round selection and the Philadelphia 76ers 2017 second round pick.

The protections are a bit complicated on the Pelicans first round pick. If New Orleans makes the playoffs, the Kings instantly take the pick. If the Pelicans miss the playoffs and go into the lottery, the Kings are safe in 2017, as long as they don’t win the lottery and move into the top three spots.

If the Pelicans move into the top three in 2017 and keep the pick, it becomes a Top 1 protected pick for the next three seasons. In the nearly impossible scenario that the Pelicans draw a top three pick in 2017 and then follow that up with three straight no. 1 overall selections, the Kings receive the Timberwolves 2021 pick.

What does it all mean?

New Orleans currently sports the NBA’s sixth worst record and they trail the Denver Nuggets by 3.5 games for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race. If the season were to end today, they would fall in the middle of the lottery. As long as the Pelicans don’t move into the Top 3, Sacramento gets the pick. If they win one of the top three picks, there is a high likelihood that the Kings will receive the selection in 2018.

Instant Replay: Second quarter kills Kings in loss to T'Wolves

Instant Replay: Second quarter kills Kings in loss to T'Wolves

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- Adjusting to life without DeMarcus Cousins is proving more difficult than the Kings thought. For the second straight game, Sacramento struggled to score the ball, falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves by a final of 102-88 Monday night at Golden 1 Center.

Karl-Anthony Towns continued his strong play. The second-year big is quickly becoming one of the best bigs in the game and at age 21, the sky's the limit. Towns dropped in 29 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked three shots as the Timberwolves improved to 24-36 on the season.

Andrew Wiggins had a big night as well. He got off to a slow start, but once he started playing the passing lanes it opened up everything for Minnesota. The talented 22-year-old finished the night with 27 points on 10-for-22 shooting and added four steals.

Ricky Rubio chipped in nine points and dished out 11 assists. Nemanja Bjelica added 10 points and 12 rebounds in the win.

Kosta Koufos overpowered the Timberwolves in the post. The Kings starting center scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.

Ben McLemore drew the tough assignment of guarding Wiggins and held his own early. But once the high-flying wing got going, McLemore had no answer. On the offensive end, he finished the night with 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting.

Willie Cauley-Stein scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists. Ty Lawson went for 11 points and nine assists, while Tyreke Evans picked it up late, scoring 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Wiggins and Towns put on a show. Give these two a couple of seasons and they might be the best duo in the game.

TURNING POINT:
The Kings looked completely lost in the second quarter and the Timberwolves ran them off the floor. After a competitive first 12 minutes of action, Minnesota outscored Sacramento 40-19 in the quarter to take a 60-44 lead into the intermission. Game over.

INJURY UPDATE:
Arron Afflalo missed his third straight game with a sore hamstring. Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson sat again with varying degrees of hamstring issues. Temple is out for another few games with a left hamstring tear and rookie Richardson is out 4-6 weeks with a right hamstring thickness tear, but hopes to return before the season is finished. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings continue their homestand Wednesday when the Brooklyn Nets swing by Golden 1 Center.