The Sacramento Kings finished a five-game home stand with a 2-3 record. The Kings lost two games by double digits, won one by 20 points and finished off the home stand with a big game from Cousins that helped hold off the Phoenix Suns. Let’s take a look back at the five-game home stand and what is coming up on the horizon for the Kings.
Game 1 vs. Portland Trailblazers
Coming home after a blowout loss against the same Portland Trail Blazers that beat Sacramento in the Moda Center, many figured it would be much of the same, with the Kings getting killed at home. This time it was a little closer but the Blazers never trailed again and made easy work of the Kings in back-to-back games. The only bright spot again was Cousins, who had 35 points and nine rebounds the night before and 33 and 12 in this game. Even though both games were losses, Cousins played very well against a good frontcourt for Portland.
Game 2 vs. Brooklyn Nets
After back-to-back losses Coach Malone made some changes to the starting lineup, replacing Patrick Patterson and Marcus Thornton with Jason Thompson and Ben McLemore. The lineup change worked, but not as you might expect. The new starts did not play well from a shooting standpoint, but their energy helped the whole team. Thompson only shot 4-of-12 from the field, but he did have 11 big rebounds. The other aspect of the change was how it would affect the bench and both Patterson and Thornton played great coming off the pine. Thornton played especially well, shooting 1-for-19 from the field, making four 3-pointers and finishing with a team-high 24 points off the bench. All in all, everyone played well against the struggling Nets and the Kings blew them out with a final score of 107-86.
Game 3 vs. Detroit Pistons
Kings fans were hopping to see the same team that had played with energy and passion two nights earlier. However, in many ways, it was back to the two-win Kings. Again the lineup change was working for the first half, with the Kings scoring 51 points. However, the second half was a different story, with the Kings going ice cold and scoring 39 points on their way to a 97-90 loss to a Pistons team that hadn’t won a road game yet this season. This loss was the worst of the season due to the opponent since the Pistons were on a four-game losing streak as well.
Game 4 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
With a day off to regroup the Kings took the floor against the up-and-down Grizzlies, who were coming in after a close win against the Lakers in Los Angeles. There was another starting lineup change with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute playing for John Salmons and this change looked like it was for defense to help play against the bigger Grizzlies frontline. However, no matter who was in the game it was not going well on either side of the floor. The Kings’ offense was terrible, shooting just under 38 percent for the game and 30 percent from three. The defense was even worse, allowing the Grizzlies to shoot almost 56% from the field while also giving up 49 rebounds and 30 assists. There was little hustle and effort on both ends and the Grizzlies had their way. Yes, the Kings made it closer in the end. But this game was over after the first quarter.
Game 5 vs. Phoenix Suns
The last game of the home stand was against the Suns, without their leader Eric Bledsoe who is averaging 20 points per game, and losers of two straight. Again, another great opportunity for the Kings to right the ship. Coach Malone made more changes to the rotation. And why not for a team that is struggling? This time the change was dropping Thornton from the rotation all together. Now the backup shooting guard was going to be Jimmer Fredette, who had played very little before this change.
However, regardless of who the backup was going to be it was clear that Ben McLemore is going to be the main shooting guard moving forward. McLemore did play better against the Suns hitting four three pointers and finishing with 19 points for the game, although he did take 13 shots from the floor and only made five. Moving forward McLemore will need better shot selection if he wants to take his game to the next level. The Kings were able to pull ahead for good in the fourth quarter and get a good win to close out the home stand.
The rotation will be the biggest thing to keep an eye on, with the bench and starters changing from game to game. As players step up, the rotation should settle in to a more consistent group. As the rotation begins to shape up, you have to believe that the Kings will be looking to move some of the players that are not playing. For example, it looks like Thornton is going to be the odd man out for a while with the younger players getting more time. Thornton is a proven scorer off the bench and many teams could use a boost to their bench.
Is DeMarcus Cousins becoming the best center in the NBA? So far some of his offensive numbers are backing up that question. He leads all centers at 21.5 points per game, four points better than the next best. He is just under 10 rebounds per game at 9.9, ranking him sixth among centers. However, he will need to step up in other categories if he wants to be considered the best. Cousins shoots only 46 percent from the field and 69 percent from the free throw line. I will be interested in seeing how Cousins plays this year and if he can lead this team to more than just a few wins.