Up to this point in the season, the Sacramento Kings’ front court of Rudy Gay, Jason Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins has been able to handle all formidable challenges it has faced. Michael Malone’s defensive-minded basketball perspective has allowed his big men to protect the paint more efficiently than the Kings have since the early-millennium.
The same trio that held Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to sub-par games, however, was not up to the challenge when Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans played their hyper-efficient brand of basketball.
The Pelicans played without Omer Asik, who has been one of the team’s best rim-protecters and defensive anchors throughout the young season. Cousins should have had an easy matchup down low, as even Davis’ presence in the paint can be taken advantage of in the absence of Asik.
Davis and Ryan Anderson gave Sacramento issues for most of the game, as Anderson’s four three-pointers spaced the floor for the Pelicans’ offense, clearing room for Davis to work in the post against Thompson. The New Orleans duo combined for 49 points and were the leading forces in the win.
The Kings managed to keep the game competitive for most of the fourth quarter, but some questionable substitutions from Malone down the stretch allowed the Pelicans to take advantage of key matchups. He left Ray McCallum on the floor until the five-minute mark before checking Darren Collison back into the game. McCallum’s lacking defensive presence was made clear, as Jrue Holiday forced him to switch onto Anderson, who in turn drilled mid-range jumpers to put the game just out of reach.
Omri Casspi had a positive performance off the bench; his 13 points included a number of and-ones. He has continued to stay aggressive in attacking the rim, and Malone has trusted him in late-game situations over Thompson. Casspi had five boards and two assists to go along with his scoring.
Offensive production was virtually non-existent for the Kings late in the fourth quarter, as a span of lost possessions let the Pelicans put the game out of reach.
The Sacramento Kings lost their identity at points in Tuesday’s game, failing to execute defensively on too many occasions. The paint was too open for Davis to operate, and it opened up shooting possibilities for the Pelicans.
Sacramento will stay in town to take on the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.