SACRAMENTO – The chips are down. But the Sacramento Kings (4-12) aren’t ready to give up, or blow up their roster.
Hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 3, the Kings allowed a third quarter lead to evaporate into a 17-point deficit by the beginning of the fourth period. Sacramento drove a furious charge behind the hot hand of Isaiah Thomas (24 points, four steals), but the point guard missed a game-tying jumper as time expired 97-95.
To almost beat the Thunder is an accomplishment in itself however, and more impressively the Kings were competitive without DeMarcus Cousins who sat with an ankle injury. Ignoring the box score, head coach Michael Malone liked what he saw.
“You lose DeMarcus (who didn’t) play tonight, playing a team that’s 12-3,” Malone stated after the game. “Vegas odds have them as one of the favorites to get to the finals out of the West and we played them tooth-and-nail. Gave ourselves a chance to win, and at some point we’re going to pull these games out…but as far as being proud of this team, I’m so proud of them right now.”
The Kings lost their fifth consecutive contest for the second time this year, but you couldn’t tell by their hustle on Tuesday. Thomas altered passing lanes with his pesky activity while scrounging for loose balls and pushing the offensive tempo. Chuck Hayes, who earned a rare start in place of Cousins, shot 3-for-3 with nine boards and two steals. Jason Thompson and Patrick Patterson banged too in the trenches for 10 rebounds apiece.
The Kings’ perimeter defense continued to struggle against the Thunder’s killer quartet of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson. They combined for 69 points and peeled away from screens to wreak havoc with the rock. Dominant performances by opposing stars have been a common theme for the Kings thus far, but Malone won’t allow it to discourage his squad. He hopes rough times will forge chemistry.
“The biggest thing for me is keeping our guys’ spirits up. We’re losing a lot of close games, but if we stay together and continue to work hard and fight like that, things will get better.”
“We have to stay together. Don’t start splitting apart and losing belief and trust in each other—and they haven’t. It’s a credit to them in light of some difficult losses that we’re staying together right now.”
The Kings’ veterans understand, and so does a young, malleable mind like Ben McLemore who is unfamiliar with a lottery atmosphere. The 20-year-old told Sports Out West he sees a silver living in defeats like to the Thunder.
“Even though we fell short, we were out there competing, doing what we needed to do. Getting stops. Making aggressive plays, being together, and we were out there having fun.”
The Los Angeles Lakers come to play on November 6, so cohesiveness and positivity will be helpful.
Photo Credit: Hector Amezcua / Sacbee.com