Culture of Hoops

Sacramento Kings suffer through painful conclusion to road trip

Image courtesy of RMTip21 | Flickr

Image courtesy of RMTip21 | Flickr

A resounding 119-98 defeat at the hands of the Houston Rockets was the most miniscule of the Sacramento Kings’ losses Wednesday night.

Along with adding another loss to their record, the Kings may have added their two biggest stars to the inactive list.

Late in the first quarter, after putting up a shot near the rim, Rudy Gay came up limping. There was no contact – something must have been internally tweaked on lift off or the landing – but Gay left the game at the next dead ball with what was reportedly a non-serious Achilles injury.

Houston didn’t relent for Sacramento, however, and neither did the injury bug. Just a quarter following Gay’s exit, and with the Rockets building a lead, DeMarcus Cousins left the game with the help of others after spraining his ankle. X-rays on Cousins’ ankle were negative, though, and official word on both he and Gay will come later today.

While the early prognoses seem to suggest Gay and Cousins will return to the lineup sooner rather than later, having one star suffer an Achilles injury – especially with Kobe Bryant’s so fresh in NBA followers’ minds – and another helped off the court by trainers and teammates is nonetheless disconcerting.

If Wednesday was any indication, however long the Kings may have to deal with Cousins and Gay’s absences will be, it will be unsurprisingly rough-going.

Sacramento (15-26) was on the ropes before the two players’ injuries, and afterward Houston (29-15) delivered a few haymakers.

James Harden gave the Kings fits and finished with 24 points. He glided through the lane unimpeded much of the night, save for the few times defenders resorted to bear-hugging Harden to slow him down. Utilizing pump-fakes and sidesteps, Harden was also able to get the free throw line 10 times.

While Cousins can’t quite be described as a defensive stalwart, without his offensive pressure Howard didn’t have to work as much and had a big offensive impact of his own. With the overmatched likes of Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray guarding him, Howard either bullied his way to the rim or soared upward to toss in uncontested hook shots. He finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

Finally, to add insult to injury injuries, Rockets forward Omri Casspi went off for a big night against his former team, driving to the rim against smaller Kings lineups and knocking down a few jumpers as well.

Perhaps the sole upside of the blowout, injury-riddled loss was that it allowed for Ray McCallum to get the most playing time he’s seen all season. In eight minutes of play, the Kings’ 2013 second-round pick turned in a competent performance at point guard, directing traffic on the pick and roll and setting up teammates with four assists.

It was a small consolation, though, amongst numerous upsetting blows to close out Sacramento’s six-game road trip.

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