Coming out of a week-long All-Star break, the Sacramento Kings were shorthanded Wednesday night. Somewhat expectedly, DeMarcus Cousins was out with a strained hip flexor, but the surprise came with Marcus Thornton, who was traded earlier in the day.
Sacramento exchanged Thornton for the Brooklyn Nets’ Jason Terry and Reggie Evans.
Down two starters, the Kings struggled to replace production and fell 101-92 to the Golden State Warriors, who, just minutes before tip-off, also made a trade.
Golden State’s swap, however, featured reserves. Its main lineup remained intact and combined for a balanced performance. Six of the nine Warriors that played registered double-digit scoring and all nine worked to hold the Kings to just 41.8 percent shooting. Sacramento’s biggest downfall, though, was its inability to hold onto the ball. Most of the night, the Kings looked frustrated by the ball pressure the Warriors applied.
“That team has enough firepower offensively, we don’t have to give them extra possessions. We seemed hell-bent on giving them as many possessions as possible.” Michael Malone said. Sacramento lost the ball 21 times and surrendered 22 points off of turnovers. “The flipside of that is our inability or unwillingness to share the basketball, and that’s gotten to be, for me, a little alarming in the last month or so.”
The Kings only had 13 assists to go with their bevy of turnovers, a discrepancy that ultimately decided the game. Throughout the night, their offense was a mostly stagnant one. Shots went up after a minimal amount of passing, limiting effectiveness.
It worked well enough early on – Travis Outlaw got out to a fast start, hitting a number of contested jump shots en route to an 18 point night – but the strategy, or lack thereof, caught up with them before the buzzer. After falling behind by as much as 15 points in the third quarter, Sacramento battled back, but mental miscues stymied any momentum the team managed to build.
Following the game, Rudy Gay criticized the team’s approach on offense and didn’t leave himself out.
“We didn’t make them pay; they double-teamed a lot. … I don’t think it’s selfish, but we have to get smarter,” he said. “There might be times when you think you can score – and I’m saying this including myself – but you got to make your teammate better. I think that’s something we got to start doing.”
With Cousins out and Thornton gone, Isaiah Thomas picked up some of the scoring load, finishing with 26 points in 42 minutes. Many of his points came in a third quarter flurry that helped secure the Kings a short-time lead. Sacramento mounted its comeback on the back of Thomas, who shifted into fifth gear, driving to the lane and dropping a few runners over Golden State’s defense.
Thomas, though, took blame for the team’s lack of passing and inept offensive performance.
“Me, as a point guard, I got to be better with the ball,” said Thomas, who had seven assists, but also turned the ball over seven times. “I think we got a little complacent on offense. Things started to slow down, they got stops and did what they needed to do.”
The Kings weren’t able to, but they’ll likely have some help when they take on the Boston Celtics Saturday, when their newest acquisitions are expected to be in uniform.