By Michael Martinez
picture credit Google Images
SACRAMENTO- Any team that has to play a playoff caliber team without their starting All Star center is going to struggle. Not only is it difficult to play without your only All Star, but when the team you are playing lost by 50 the night before, you know you could be in even more trouble. Without Demarcus Cousins, who is dealing with an achilles injury, the Kings looked lost and hopeless in many aspects. As nobody was able to step up to replace Cousins, the Kings ball movement was lifeless, the defense was filled with holes and the Grizzlies got an easy win at Sleep Train Arena, 103-89, boosting their morale after an embarrassing loss to the Warriors the night before.
For the Kings, the whole game was not a complete disaster as the 1st quarter went well. To start the 1st quarter, the Kings looked sluggish on the offensive and defensive end. They allowed the Grizzlies to take an early 7 point lead, but nevertheless the Kings came back swinging with a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 2. The Kings began to put themselves in a better position with good ball movement and Rudy Gay’s hustle really helped as well. When Gay was asked to guard Zach Randolph, he used his length to his advantage on the defensive end and his speed on the offensive end as well. Gay put up 8 points in the first quarter by attacking the rim and getting good looks from the field. Marco Belinelli also helped the Kings by finishing the quarter with 8 points on 2 for 2 shooting behind the arc. The Kings began to cause Memphis to turn the ball over and by shooting 58.8% from the field the Kings finished the quarter with a 29-25 lead.
Entering the 2nd quarter with a 4 point lead over the Grizzlies, the Kings looked to continue scoring on the offensive end. However, the second quarter was absolutely atrocious for the Kings in many ways. Nobody on the team could hit the broad side of the barn with their shots, including free throws. Free throws aka free points were more of a kryptonite for the Kings who finished the half shooting 57.1% from the charity stripe. Their field goal percentage also dropped 20% as they finished the quarter shooting 37.5% from the field. Gay looked to continue to step up but his shot was completely out of sync. The ball movement was stagnant as the Kings had 0 assists in the 2nd quarter. Sloppy play and being out rebounded, 27 to 16, caused the Kings to be outscored. Without Demarcus Cousins and with Kosta Koufos in foul trouble, it was to be expected but this hurt the Kings. Luckily the Grizzlies did not play well either, except they had a couple big put back jams from Jaymychal Green and Courtney Lee, which were the only real highlights of the quarter. The Grizzlies finished the quarter with a fast break lay up at the buzzer to take a 50-40 lead as they outscored the Kings 25-11.
After an awful second quarter, the Kings hoped to come out of the locker room with a vengeance. Unfortunately for the home team, their defense looked even sloppier than the quarter before. The Grizzlies continuously got wide open shots and were able to get easy hoops close to the basket. Randolph came out strong and had 8 points in the quarter. He finished the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Although the Kings scored more than they did in the second quarter, thanks to Gay and Darren Collison, their field goal percentage dropped to 37% for the game. The ball movement that helped the Kings play well in the preseason became nonexistent in the 3rd quarter. A lot of selfish play put the Kings in a bad position even though they put up 27 points in the 3rd. As the Kings’ defense failed to improve, the Grizzlies led 83-67 to end the 3rd.
With the Kings down by 16 to start the 4th, Cousins sat with his teammates on the bench to try and encourage a come back. The come back was not meant to be, as nobody on the team could get enough offense going to cut the Grizzlies lead. Belinelli had a nice pass to Willie Cauley-Stein for a big dunk, but once Coach George Karl saw the lead was too much, the bench players came in. For the Grizzlies, Brendan Wright did a good job in the 4th quarter off the bench. Wright finished with 10 points on 4 for 5 shooting, adding 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Although the Kings outscored the Grizzlies, 22-20 in the 4th, they simply could not shoot the ball all night. They finished the game with a 39.2 shooting percentage and shot 60% from the free throw line.
The only bright spots for the Kings, more like dim spots, was the scoring of Collison and Gay. Collison finished the game with 18 points, but uncharacteristically only had 1 assist. Gay finished the game with 19 points, adding 5 rebounds and 3 assists. The Kings biggest problem was that there was very little ball movement. After 7 assists in the 1st quarter, they finished the game with only 17 assists. Without the team’s best scorer and rebounder, the Kings are going to need Rajon Rondo to create open shots and the Kings’ shooters are going to need to hit open shots and get better looks. The Kings will take on the Phoenix Suns tomorrow night, where hopefully they can improve in every aspect as Cousins will be sitting out once again.