End-of-the-game execution has been faulty for the Sacramento Kings this year. In each of the last two games, the Kings have battled and fought back to get the game close in the final minutes. However, mismatches on defense and poor execution resulted in bad final possessions and kept the Kings from upsetting two of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Against the Golden State Warriors this past Sunday, the Kings put Isaiah Thomas on Stephen Curry. Curry, being the taller player and a phenomenal shooter, squared Thomas up and scored on two of the final three possessions. All he had to do was jab-step, square up and let it fly. While the much shorter Thomas was in great position, he was not tall or long enough to affect his shot.
It seems like head coach Mike Malone wanted a quick, stout defender (which Thomas is), yet failed to consider Curry’s ability to simply shoot over smaller defenders. This defensive mismatch was compounded by Thomas’ poor decision in the ensuing final possession to attempt a reverse layup with Warriors big man Andrew Bogut waiting for him.
No final possession should ever go without the ball being touched at least once by DeMarcus Cousins (and a put-back or offensive board doesn’t count). On Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Kings were without their star center and couldn’t quite pull out the win in the end. In the fourth quarter, Thomas went on an absolute tear, scoring 21 points. Despite his scoring spree, going one-on-one with Westbrook in the final seconds while the other four Kings on the floor stood aside was a poor possession.
Despite the run Thomas was on, it is ridiculous to not draw up at least one screen on the ball, if not more off the ball. Even if Thomas was going to take the shot, the Thunder defense should be forced to guard their man and therefore make a decision on whether to help or not. You cannot let one defender guard two players at the same time.
Hopefully the Kings can start executing in the final possessions of close games; who wouldn’t love a game-winner on Friday to beat the Los Angeles Lakers?