By Charlie O. Mallonee
The Sacramento Kings faced a Herculean task on Saturday night. First, they had to go for a win in the second game of a back-to-back set on the road for which the odds are against the road team. Second, the team they would have to defeat would be the Houston Rockets–one of the most talented “Tier One” teams in “the Association.”
This would also be the Kings’ fourth back-to-back set of games this season, which is just 16 games old for Sacramento. For a league that wanted to reduce the number of back-to-back games, the NBA seems to be doing a poor job of it when it comes to the Kings.
After losing to the Grizzlies on Friday night, the Kings came up short in Houston losing to the Rockets 132-112. The Rockets have won seven of their last nine games and have now won four games in a row. Simply put, the Rockets are on fire!
The Rockets’ plan was to slow the Kings down
Everyone in the NBA now knows the Kings’ plan is to run their opponent out of the building. The defense that appears to be the most effective against that plan is to slow down the Kings pace of play and force them into a half-court game. Sacramento appears to be unable to adjust when having to play at a slower pace.
The Kings shot 45.1-percent (46/102) overall for the contest. They hit on just 11-of-35 (31.4%) 3-point attempts. Even more important, SAC only had 12 attempts from the free throw line and converted just seven of those shots. Having just 12 free throw opportunities indicates that the Kings were not attacking the bucket.
Sacramento had just 14 fast break points in the game while the Rockets posted 17. When the opponent has more fast break points, the Kings are in serious trouble which they were on Saturday night.
The Rockets played their game to perfection
Kings radio broadcaster Gary Gerould described the Houston game as “pick and roll, isolation and deep 3-point shots.” The Rockets did all three of those things to perfection on Saturday night.
The Rockets shot 56.8-percent (46/81) for the game. They converted 20-of-47 (42.6%) of their 3-point shots. Houston hit 20-of-24 (83.3%) of their free throw attempts. Chris Paul tied his career-high with six 3-point baskets made in the game.
Houston dictated the action by playing the game according to their game plan while forcing the Kings to play a style other than their uptempo–run them out of the arena plan.
Key Kings Numbers
- Buddy Hield leading scorer with 23 points, shooting 10-for-17
- De’Aaron Fox posted 19 points, going 2-for-4 from downtown
- Marvin Bagley III played 27-plus minutes and put 16 points in the book
- Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 14 points and had 5 assists in just 20 minutes
- Every King in uniform appeared in the game on Saturday night
- The Kings are now 8-8 for the season
- James Harden was the game’s leading scorer with 34 points
- Clint Capela posted a double-double with 23 points and 16 rebounds
- CP3 put up 24 points with 6-of- his 7 buckets being 3-pointers
- Gerald Green scored 17 points in just 13:40 of playing time
- The Rockets biggest lead in the game was 26 points
- Houston is now 8-7 this season
The Kings are in the midst of controversy
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that Kings’ head coach Dave Joerger could be on the “hot seat” for not playing younger players like Marvin Bagley III in favor of players like Nemanja Bjelica in order to get wins. Haynes premise was that Joerger was not following the script of developing young talent such Bagley, Harry Giles III, and Skal Labbissiere.
After the game, Kings general manager Vlade Divac issued a statement stating support for Joerger and his confidence in him.