SACRAMENTO – The Sacramento Kings’ defense resembles a pasta strainer these days.
“We’re not doing anything defensively. Teams are getting what they want, how they want it, and we’re not taking anything away. It’s kind of embarrassing,” Isaiah Thomas noted Wednesday night.
The Kings (15-30) made several miscues late in a 99-89 loss to the visiting Memphis Grizzlies (24-20). From turnovers to slow rotations to poor perimeter play, Sacramento let the twenty-fifth-ranked scoring team in the NBA have its way.
The game was tied at 61 with 5:21 in the third quarter when the Kings allowed three offensive rebounds in 30 seconds which set the tone for the rest of the match. Zach Randolph notched seven of his 18 points in the fourth and Mike Conley finished with 27 to lead the Grizzlies in scoring. Memphis connected on 54.7 percent of its shots while managing a 2:1 assist-turnover ratio, whereas Sacramento recorded 20 assists and 15 turnovers.
Wednesday’s performance irked head coach Michael Malone to the point he’s decided to make changes in his rotation. Less than a week after dropping 42 points against the Indiana Pacers, Marcus Thornton logged 17 minutes versus the Grizzlies in part to his lack of defensive effort.
“If you’re not willing to defend, I can no longer be a hypocrite…I preach defense,” Malone stated. “That’s what I believe in, and we’re one of the worst defensive teams in the league.”
“If you don’t play defense, I can’t play you.”
On offense, Rudy Gay made his return from an Achilles strain suffered on January 22 and scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He added two rebounds, five assists and five turnovers and didn’t feel his best.
“Honestly, I was a little rusty,” Gay admitted.
Thomas contributed 24 points on 21 attempts while Carl Landry produced eight points and nine boards off the bench. Ben McLemore, who failed to receive a nomination for the Rising Stars Challenge on Wednesday, shot 2-of-6 for 6 points and 3 turnovers.
The Kings will hit the road to face the Dallas Mavericks (26-21) on Friday, and the squad hopes DeMarcus Cousins can play following a four-game absence with an ankle injury. It will take more than hope, however, to see a significant improvement stopping the ball.
Photo Credit: Jose Villegas / Sacbee.com