Culture of Hoops

Sacramento Kings lack punching power, Washington Wizards prevail

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr

Sometimes DeMarcus Cousins can be taken for granted. In his fourth NBA season, Cousins has become an automatic double-double for the Sacramento Kings, routinely dominating even the most talented opponents.

As strong as the statements that he makes in his big outings are, perhaps Cousins’ impact on the game isn’t so clear as when its presence is lacking.

Sunday night against the Washington Wizards, Cousins got his double-double but it was a struggle, as was the rest of the game for the Kings, who suffered a 93-84 loss.

As Cousins goes, so do the Kings. Cousins, hounded by Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat all night, was limited to 3-16 shooting from the field; eight of his 14 points came from the free throw line.

“Give Washington credit tonight; I thought they did a great job defending DeMarcus. They were very physical with him,” Michael Malone said. “… It’s not like teams are doing anything different. It’s just a matter of us battling through fatigue, being mentally tough, finding a way to step into our shots and make them and not get frustrated about non-calls.”

Meanwhile, Sacramento had similar difficulty getting into a rhythm offensively. On the night, the Kings shot just 35.4 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from beyond the arc. It was one of their worst offensive performances of the season, something that was compounded by their inability to take care of the basketball.

Sacramento had 18 turnovers, off which the Wizards capitalized, scoring 26 points. The Kings had chances of their own in transition, but, on multiple occasions, squandered them by overthrowing the outlet. Those missed easy-point opportunities ended up being crucial mistakes, and the Wizards’ win in the turnover battle secured their victory.

“Turnovers, once again, really hurt us. … It’s very hard to win on the road when you turn the ball over that many times,” Malone said. “And we talked about it going in, that this is a team that does a great job of turning their opponents over and scoring.”

Rudy Gay played, but was still recovering from the effects of an illness that kept him out of Friday’s game against the Boston Celtics. He looked noticeably off and finished with just five points on 2-11 shooting.

With two-thirds of the Kings main offensive options playing poorly, it fell on Isaiah Thomas to pick up the slack. While it wasn’t efficient – he shot 11-24 from the field – Thomas’ performance helped keep Sacramento afloat.

He found open looks throughout the night, often using his speed and the pick and roll to get past John Wall. By the end of the night, Thomas had 30 points – 36 percent of Sacramento’s scoring – and 8 assists.

It wasn’t enough to make up for the Kings’ lack of offense and poor defense, though. They allowed the Wizards to shoot 52.5 percent from the field in the first half, but flipped a switch defensively in the second, holding their opponent to 33.3 percent in the second half.

But like Thomas’ efforts, it was too little, too late. Sacramento unraveled in the final minutes and gave Washington a number of open looks from three, which put the nail in the coffin.

Despite the loss, Malone, who has preached defense all year, particularly of late, was happy with his team’s defensive effort in the second half, something he hopes they can carry on going into Tuesday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“The first half we didn’t defend, but the second half I thought our defense was terrific,” Malone said. “I’m very proud of our team and how they played in the second half. And as I told them inside (the locker room), we have to play like that for 48 minutes, it can’t just be one half.”

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