Sacramento has done some amazing things this year and has made some large strides in improving their young core. DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins and company have played .500 basketball since their abysmal 1-7 start and are on pace for their best winning percentage since 2005. The Kings have only lost one home game in the month of December, which happened to take place in Mexico City for the NBA global games. The Kings have even have the fourth highest scoring offense in the league producing 104.4 points per game and have the fifth highest assists per game at 24.3.
While these stats are positive, they are provided as a silver lining for the lack of production by the Kings. This season thus far, the Kings have blown a 22-point lead against Charlotte, have the worst defensive efficiency rating in the league and hold a 3-11 record on the road. The Kings have not played one game where they have demonstrated a clear ability to control the fluidity of the game and win as a team.
The epitome of the Sacramento Kings defensive woes and lack of any effort or ability to win were readily available as their road trip began.
After cruising to a three-game win-streak at home, the Kings took the road and had multiple opportunities to contend for the eighth seed in the Western conference. Beginning the trip against a much less talented Minnesota Timberwolves, the Kings gave up another 30+ point quarter to start the game and allowed Andrew Wiggins to score 32 points.
The Wolves jumped out to a commanding 12-point lead to start the game and the Kings were unable to close the gap until heading into halftime. The Kings took their first lead on a Rudy Gay three-pointer with 1:44 left in the second quarter. Gay finished with 20 points and no assists.
For the Wolves, Shabazz Muhammad came off of the bench for Minnesota and had 12 points in 12 minutes during the first half.
Minnesota was able to stretch the lead during the third and take advantage of the King inability to guard the perimeter. Ricky Ruby scorched the Kings with five three-pointers made.
The fourth quarter started in a six-minute, two-point stalwart where each team exchanged missed shots and turnovers. It wasn’t until the five-minute mark did the Kings began to cut the deficit. DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo combined for nine of Sacramento’s final 13 points.
Finishing with 24 points and 12 rebounds, Cousins lead all players in scoring and rebounds in 37 minutes of play. Rajon Rondo finished with 13 assists and 11 points.
As a very winnable game for Sacramento, the Wolves played much more aggressively than their counterpart. Ultimately, finishing ahead of the Kings in the Western Conference. Sacramento had every opportunity to pull ahead and seal the game but couldn’t make any defensive stops when it mattered.
Sacramento then came out two nights later and played incredibly well against the Toronto Raptors. Arguably some of their best basketball of the season. Unfortunately, it was only for one-quarter.
After coming out to a 17-2 start and ultimately stretching the lead to 44-22 during the beginning of the second quarter, the Kings allowed the Raptors score 30 points in the remainder of the quarter and held onto the lead, winning 104-94.
DeMar DeRozan had 28 points and the Raptors Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross combined for 31 of the Raptors 35 points off of the bench. Toronto had cut the lead down to as little as five in the fourth but were unable to stop the Kings offensive output.
All of Sacramento’s starters finished in double-digit scoring and the Kings and Rajon Rondo finished with 19 points and 13 assists.
It was the Kings third road win of the season and an optimistic sign as the first of Sacramento’s back-to-back.
Looking to build off of the team win, in which the Kings had 26 assists to 15 turnovers, the Kings were headed to D.C. to play an injured Wizards team. Missing Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., and Nene Hilario the Kings had a large advantage and came out with a lackluster effort and were clobbered by John Waller and Marcin Gortat.
Wall had a career-high, 19 assists and Gortat finished with a season-high 27 points. The Kings kept the game competitive for the most part and headed into the fourth quarter tied with the Wizards.
After a series of turnovers by reserve Seth Curry, the Kings were unable to stop the Wizards and were outscored 15-29 in the fourth quarter. DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay both finished with a net rating of -18, and held to a very minimal impact on defense.
The Wizards finished shooting 58 percent from three-pointers on top of 50 percent from the field and had 31 assists on 42 made baskets. Garrett Temple had a stellar shooting night finishing with 23 points on 5-10 from three-pointers. The defensive scheme used to stop the Wizards was once again, executed poorly and resulted in career nights for Washington’s stars.
The Kings had no defensive presence in both games against the Wolves and Wizards and played nearly lifeless. While 10-10 basketball is something that Kings fans have longed for, this team has more than enough talent to be a playoff contender.
At this point, their incapability to play consistently is the only thing that is preventing them from winning. The Kings should have won all three of these games on the road and provided them with a stronghold on the eighth seed. Yet, Sacramento lost two of the three and now is tenth in the West and playing an incredibly tough Indiana Pacers team next.
Sacramento has a chance to string together some wins in their next ten games, but they can’t defeat themselves. If Sacramento wants to remain hopeful to grow throughout the season, there needs to be work done from both the players and the coaching staff as they search for any form of consistent basketball. The Kings need to learn how to win and what they mean they have to do as an organization.