When the clock is ticking and a team run its set play, one thing is clear: The team’s star is getting the ball, and it’s most likely going to be a good look.
On a good night, that star may even deliver on the perfect backdoor play, or a timely clutch step-back jumper. The game’s best have made an art form out of these moments. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Paul Pierce — all clutch shooters with the game on the line. Having a closer isn’t just a formality, it’s a must.
The Sacramento Kings looked good in racing out to an early lead in the first quarter in their preseason opener, but stumbled over themselves at the finish line on Monday night against the Golden State Warriors. It’s a recurring theme for the Kings as they failed to close an opponent out yet again. Some problems just can’t be fixed with a front office upgrade.
The struggle is real. Sacramento has had this issue smoldering since the youth movement began, letting too many wins slip through their hands last season. That’s what happens when you have such a young, inexperienced team. But let’s not go into crisis mode after one little preseason game. With the Kings all set to take on the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday, what must Sacramento do to get their first win of preseason action?
If the Kings want to establish a new identity going into the start of the regular season, Sacramento must find a closer. It’s a must. The knock on this team has always been a lack of passing and a lack of a true closer when the game is on the line — all very true of this young team.
Sacramento likes to fancy itself as a new defensive group thanks to head coach Michael Malone, but the jury is still out on that persona and as of now, relying on that ‘improved’ defense won’t be enough. Besides, the Kings were out-muscled in the paint on Monday 40-28, and they won’t be scaring too many teams with that effort.
So in the interest of racking up more wins, who will emerge as the team’s closer when it matters?
I know most of you are throwing out names right now: Marcus Thornton, or give it to DeMarcus Cousins late (please no). Most of the fans on the Kings’ Facebook page want the ball in Jimmer’s hands when the game is on the line. Nothing against Jimmer Fredette, but that’s a thought process I’m still trying to wrap my head around as Jimmer has been an absolute disappointment in every scenario given to him.
Some even point to rookie Ben McLemore as he’s more recently shown that he lives for the big shot. McLemore is a leading candidate, but may not be on the floor late in games. That all comes down to his performance in these upcoming games. Really, this team just needs to do the little things the whole game — not just in the first half. Sacramento can’t afford to play three quarters of basketball and call it a day. Not in this league.
Playing as one and making stops when it matters will go a long way towards closing the gap at the end of these games. If the Kings want a new persona, they’re going to have to earn it first. But if that doesn’t work, then a closer most definitely needs to come to the front and center.