Close games have not ended well for the Sacramento Kings. Even with a soft schedule featuring mostly home games to start the season, wins have been scarce for this young team looking to establish itself. But that trend reversed itself Tuesday as Sacramento rallied in the fourth quarter to sneak past the Phoenix Suns 107-104.
DeMarcus Cousins notched his fifth double-double of the season with 27 points and 12 rebounds while rookie Ben McLemore added 19 points. ”My teammates and our coaching staff has confidence and told me to just keep shooting.” McLemore told reporters. “Even after I missed shots tonight, I kept shooting. I’m a shooter; that’s what I do,” he added. And boy did he. McLemore hit three straight from deep and really made the most of his 34 minutes.
Though the Suns rang up 104 points the Kings made crucial stops when the game mattered including taking advantage of three straight turnovers by Phoenix in the closing minutes. Sacramento exploited the void left by Eric Bledsoe who sat out with a bruised shin suffered in practice earlier this week. The Kings follow up the home and home series with a rematch in Phoenix Wednesday night.
If this team wants to establish itself as a defensive force it will need more wins — and stops — before we see a true identity of being a defensive force to be reckoned with. The two steps forward, two steps back status of the Kings has head coach Michael Malone baffled. ”I can’t figure us out at times. We’re first in the league in fewest turnovers, but we’ve had games recently where we look like the Keystone Cops. That needs to be cleaned up, especially going into their house tomorrow.” The Kings’ front line is probably first on the cleaning list as the Kings have glaring holes on the defensive end when it comes to key starters.
Jason Thompson, for example, has had a hard time keeping defenders in front of him which is fueling Cousins’ foul trouble as teams attack the post and the Kings lack of quality big men. I stated in my article a few days ago that this team may need to explore some options via trade to improve the starting lineup. The rumor mill is churning and claims the Minnesota Timberwolves are exploring a trade with Sacramento involving Derrick Williams. I for one am no fan of that trade scenario. If the Kings want to improve they should do it at the small forward position, not power forward. And moving Jason Thompson to get Derrick Williams is a swap that makes no sense seeing as the Kings already have an army at the forward spot.
For coach Michael Malone these next ten games could make or break the season. For now, the coach will just have to make do with what he’s got.