This was a historically bad loss. The Sacramento Kings led the Memphis Grizzlies by 22-points in the first quarter before allowing them to slowly make their way back and ultimately force the game to be decided on a final play.
As it has been for a majority of this road trip, the Kings’ execution could not have been any worse.
Sacramento started the game like they have for much of the season, in which they’ve exceeded nearly every set expectation by entering 5-3. Two nights before this loss to Memphis, the team blew a 24-point lead to the Dallas Mavericks in a similar fashion. Coming out of the gate hot was not a problem as virtually every shot Rudy Gay took early fell. There was a rhythm offensively in which every mid-range jumper the Kings shot fell, and it put them up big to start the game.
It took the Grizzlies until halfway through the third quarter to legitimately start fighting back. They stuck around after the first quarter, but the 20-point lead maintained by Coach Mike Malone’s team still looked comfortable as the Kings felt secure in trading baskets on consecutive possessions.
In the stretch before Sacramento collapsed, all five starters gave excellent efforts with the exception of Jason Thompson, who is the most undeserving starter in the NBA. Gay got himself to the free-throw line eight times and made all of them, and DeMarcus Cousins was his usual self with 12 rebounds for the Kings, which often-times led to transition buckets for his teammates.
It eventually came time for Sacramento to beat themselves, as they’ve done so much in the past.
The Grizzlies began to tighten up on defense and got massive contributions from Vince Carter on the offensive side of the ball, as he put in three three-pointers to bring his team to within one. After an offensive slump from Sacramento, Memphis went up by one point with just over 20 seconds left.
Malone smartly drew up a play for Cousins, who wasted no time driving to the bucket and drawing a foul. He hit two clutch free-throws for the Kings to put them up by one and in a promising position to take the victory.
After coming back from these two free-throws with an empty possession, the Grizzlies were forced to foul Ben McLemore, who stepped up to the line and missed his first foul shot. It didn’t seem like a game-changer at the time, as he smartly missed the second on purpose to take time off the clock by the time the ball was rebounded.
With just .03 seconds on the clock and the ball in Memphis’ hand, it seemed apparent that the Kings would run away with a victory. Darren Collison, the Kings’ starting point guard with 20-points in the game, walked to his coach and told him that the team needed this win. They needed to really earn one.
What happened next epitomizes what has been wrong with Sacramento basketball for the past five years.
On what was the most commonly run tip-in play in basketball, Vince Carter put the ball next to the rim, and the play was finished by Courtney Lee with the clock at zero and the game over. Thompson had been in the paint for the Kings, but he mis-read his rotation and followed Gasol out of the paint to let Lee waltz in with the closest player in a black jersey about five feet away from him. Memphis walked away with a 111-110 win.
That’s all I can say about this game without breaking my computer. I hope that Malone finally gets the message and stops starting Thompson. Put in Omri Casspi. Put in Reggie Evans. Put in Carl Landry. Anyone but Thompson who contributes at the same level as players who get single-digit minutes. He destroyed the last play, as a correct sequence defensively would have won this game.