SACRAMENTO – By the end of the third quarter, the Sacramento Kings looked cooked.
The Kings (20-39) gutted themselves by surrendering a 31-14 third period to the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves (29-29) on Saturday for the final score of 109-98. Passes out of bounds, poor shots and slow rotations contributed to a stall out usually reserved for older Chevrolets.
“Down the stretch you can’t afford to have breakdowns, and obviously we’ve had quite a few breakdowns,” remarked coach Michael Malone.
“Turnovers are hurting us,” DeMarcus Cousins added, “and we’re not communicating on defense. Also letting teams come out to a hot start. We can’t allow that.”
The Kings struggled to run their offense to the tune of 22 assists to 19 turnovers, while the Timberwolves boasted an additional assist and only 10 turnovers. Minnesota scored 27 points off turnovers and often caught the home team not hustling back on defense.
The Timberwolves made an emphasis to go after Ben McLemore, who finished with a disappointing seven points and five turnovers. More importantly, the rookie allowed Kevin Martin to score 26 points off 56.3 percent shooting, which irked coach Malone. Ray McCallum saw time in the fourth quarter in McLemore’s place and logged a career-high 28 minutes as a result. Malone was blunt with his decision.
“You (have to) step up in this league,” stated Malone. “We show film, we talk about it, we work on things, but (there) ain’t nothing to it but to do it, and he’s got to go out there and show he can guard these guys.”
The shooting guard wasn’t the only King to struggle on defense, as Kevin Love produced 22 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists and Nikola Pekovic added 20 points and 9 rebounds. Sacramento was outscored 44 to 30 in the paint and gave the Timberwolves 18 more free throw opportunities.
Cousins recorded 21 points, 17 rebounds and 3 blocks in his first game back from a suspension, while Isaiah Thomas had 22 points and 8 assists. Rudy Gay led the Kings with 24 points but scored only 2 points in the second half, errant chucks a large reason for that.
The Kings are currently tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for last place in the Western Conference and fifth-worst record in the NBA. They’ll host the New Orleans Pelicans (23-36) on Monday for a chance to bite a three-game losing streak.
Photo Credit: Randall Benton / Sacbee.com