By Brad Schmidt
As the third quarter ended with the Sacramento Kings up 87-80 against the Utah Jazz Monday night, uncertainty filled the arena as many feared what has plagued the Kings for a majority of the season.
Why uncertainty instead of joy for a seven point lead with one quarter to play? The King’s have dropped 17 games this season while having a lead at some point in the fourth quarter.
Trying to breakdown Sacramento’s meltdown on Monday is not a hard task.
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The first person the media and fans attack in a situation like this is the head coach, Paul Westphal. However, if you watch the game and break down the tape you realize that Westphal has the right guys in, at the right moments and running the right plays to give the team a chance to win.
When asked Monday night if Omri Casspi taking a last second three to tie the game was what he wanted in that situation, an obviously irritated Westphal responded, “Well, what would you have done in that situation?”
The fact is Westphal had his best shooters on the floor, down by three and with eight seconds remaining. The Kings ran a play that got one of their most consistent three point shooters, Casspi, a shot for the tie.
No, the problem isn’t Westphal, but rather a team filled with young players that don’t execute a game plan when the pressure is on.
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Casspi’s shot came up four feet short, as he appeared not ready to catch the pass and take a quick shot.
“We ran a play to set up for Tyreke (Evans), but I got kind of open,” Casspi said. “I just lost the ball on the way up. The ball slipped out of my hands.”
The end result was another night of Kings fans exiting the arena in disappointment.
Let me mention the fact that the King’s can play with nearly every team in the NBA. That is shown night in and night out by them consistently competing with teams through three quarters. It’s the fourth quarter when the opposing teams all star player seems to gain composure and execute far better than the Kings young line-up.
Deron Williams on Monday night was relatively quiet through the first three quarters but when his team needed him to step up and run the offense he was there for them.
Williams was a spark plug in the fourth quarter which allowed the Jazz to outscore the King’s 27-17 in the final 12 minutes.
The stats for rising star DeMarcus Cousins were excellent against Utah. Cousins finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds and appeared to operating down low with ease.
However, he once again was battling foul trouble the entire game which limited his time on the floor in the fourth quarter. When Cousins exited the game with his fifth foul, it allowed the Jazz to focus their defense on the perimeter, since no one other than Cousins established anything down low all night. This caused the King’s offense to go stagnant and at times even confused the Kings.
Cousins fifth foul came with 6:16 remaining in the forth quarter when he attempted taking a charge on Paul Millsap and was called for a blocking foul. This shows that the basketball IQ for Cousins is still a work in progress. The young man must realize that the risk of him getting the block called against him, forcing him to the bench, is far to risky and just not a smart play.
Cousins plays hard and I admire his efforts on the floor, but once again channeling that energy in a positive way remains a problem.
Sacramento finish their six game home stand with Dallas and Oklahoma City before embarking on seven game road trip. They are currently on a three game losing streak and need to find a way to close out one of their next two games at home to give their fans a reason to cheer as well as a reason to tune in for the brutal seven game road trip that’s lies ahead.