Even an all-out offensive assault from Rudy Gay wasn’t enough to push the DeMarcus Cousins-less Sacramento Kings past the Dallas Mavericks Friday night.
Gay finished with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists, but was outdone by a Dallas Mavericks attack that was spearheaded by Dirk Nowitzki’s 34 points.
The two teams seemed to be on different wavelengths for long stretches of the night, each alternating lopsided runs throughout the third quarter, and the Mavs were able to finish on top in a 107-103 victory.
On the heels of an explosive run out of halftime, the Kings captured a sizeable lead in the third quarter, but inconsistency on the defensive end allowed the Mavericks back into the game.
Nowitzki gave Sacramento problems all night, continually knocking down jumpers whether there was a defender in front of him or not. The Kings backcourt corralled Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon for much of the game, but failed to stay in front of them in crucial moments. In the fourth quarter alone, Ellis scored 11 points, seven of which came from perfect shooting at the free-throw line.
“We put them on the foul line, we didn’t get loose balls, we didn’t get rebounds,” Michael Malone said of the final quarter. “And if you let that team hang around—Monta started being in attack mode. Dirk, obviously that’s why he’s a hall of fame player. We just had no defensive mindset or presence in that fourth quarter.”
After a disappointing defensive performance Wednesday, Malone suggested changes to the lineup were in the works. While he didn’t do anything drastic—the starting lineup remained intact—Malone did go to his bench more often than usual against Dallas.
Quincy Acy, in particular, registered a season-high 31 minutes off the bench. He provided the Kings with energy, especially around the basket on offense, but like the rest of the frontcourt Acy had no answer for Nowitzki defensively.
“Even when you play good defense on (Nowitzki) at times, his shot is so high, he’s got such a high release point—(the ball) doesn’t even hit the rim,” Malone said. “The key to playing him is you have to be physical…. Get into him, make him put the ball on the floor. He got into a comfort zone very early tonight. Once a guy gets into a zone early, usually it makes for a long night.”
The Mavericks exploited the Kings in the halfcourt through Nowitzki, but also struck in transition. Once again, Sacramento was careless with the ball, which led to turnovers and fast break baskets. The Kings turned the ball over 15 times and surrendered 18 points off those miscues.
Malone didn’t seem nearly as frustrated Friday as he was following the Kings loss Wednesday. His players performed better on the defensive end and with more activity, though inconsistently.
Still, if the Kings fail to tighten things up even more defensively, they’ll have their hands full tonight against the San Antonio Spurs.