The Sacramento Kings have not handled late-game situations effectively in the 2014-15 season, with the painful memory of a last-second loss to the Memphis Grizzlies still relevant.
With a weary approach to close game scenarios, the Kings hosted an undermanned Indiana Pacers team on the tail-end of a back-to-back set. With Paul George out indefinitely and George Hill sidelined for the next few weeks, this was a game that should not have troubled Sacramento down the stretch.
“We were too dribble dominant tonight. We only had five assists in the second half, and part of that was trying to get Roy Hibbert in as many pick-and-rolls as possible, but after 48 minutes and a five minute overtime it just became too much dribbling.
Some of this dribbling came from the player who put the Kings in a situation to win.
Rudy Gay was matched up with Chris Copeland, a situation that Mike Malone made sure to exploit early and often. Copeland had trouble fighting through screens set by Ryan Hollins, and could not contain Gay’s pull-up jumper in one on one plays. Coach Frank Vogel sidelined Copeland after Gay had already posted 11 points in the first quarter of play.
Gay finished with 27 points on 50 percent from the field.
The Kings’ defense stayed consistent for a majority of the game, but the team wavered offensively toward the end. David West‘s presence was felt in the paint as stagnant Sacramento possessions ended in misses from inside, giving the Pacers too many chances to inch closer and closer into the game.
With 28 seconds left, Indiana elected to go to West for the tying attempt, a decision which ended up evening the game at 96. The Kings, like they had been doing for the entire game up to that point, decided that Gay would have the ball in his hands.
The possession that followed was reminiscent of many forced shots and poor offensive decisions he has made, as Gay drove to the baseline and forced up a highly contested shot. The game remained tied, setting up Indiana with an opportunity to take the win.
A poor possession would leave the score even and an overtime period would come, one that Sacramento needed to control in order to make this home stand a success of any measure.
The Pacers managed to take a one-point lead with just enough time in overtime for a final Kings possession. A missed shot from the Kings was rebounded by Carl Landry who powered over David West, who had been able to draw fouls on rebounds through the extra period.
The put-back basket by Landry would lead to a one-point lead on a poorly executed play from Indiana, giving the Kings the victory.
Ben McLemore played over 46 minutes in the contest, primarily for his defense on Solomon Hill and Rodney Stuckey who became dangerous in the final period of regulation. McLemore finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
Jason Thompson gave the team some rare production, as his nine points and 10 rebounds came in a tough battle against West, one of the league’s premier power forwards.
The Kings will host the Orlando Magic on Saturday night; The Magic will be playing a back-to-back on the end of a long road trip, so some energetic play from the Kings should serve them very effectively.