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If you think Sacramento (5-4) lost in Memphis on the game’s final play, Kings coach Michael Malone does not agree with you.
“We lost the game and it didn’t come down to that last play," Malone said. "Whether or not it got tipped or not, we didn’t deserve to win that game."
The game’s final play occurred with .3 seconds to go as an alley-oop in-bounds pass from Vince Carter to Courtney Lee for a layup propelled Memphis to a 111-110 win and an 8-1 record.
[RECAP: Kings collapse in last-second loss]
The play wasn’t without controversy, as it appeared that Ryan Hollins might have touched the ball.
However, after review by the NBA in Secaucus, NJ, it ultimately was upheld as a good basket and a Memphis win.
"When you give up, blow a 26-point lead, you turn the ball over, you don’t get stops, and you allow them to shoot -- I believe -- 63 percent in the second half, it doesn’t come down to that last play," Malone explained. "Not at all."
In an uncanny resemblance to Dallas two nights prior, it was a repeat performance for the Kings -- they built a significant lead and squandered it. The only real difference in Memphis was the dramatic finish.
“We had a tremendous first quarter, and this is that Dallas game all over again," Malone recounted. "We built a 24-point lead to Dallas and [threw] it away. We built a 26-point lead [Thursday] and [threw] it away."
Two trends are emerging that are killing the Kings:
1. Defense disappearing: “We’ve lost our defensive identity in a hurry," Malone said. "You give up, I think it was 95 points, 30 in the second, 30 in the third, 35 fourth quarter points."
Of late, the identity has been strong in the first quarte, but fleeting.
The Kings held the Grizzlies to 16 points in the first quarter, then allowed 95 points over the final three quarters.
In Dallas, the Mavs were held to just 14 points in the initial 12 minute, but over the final three quarters, Sacramento gave up 92 points.
2. Cousins off the floor
Cousins picked up his fifth foul with Kings up 18 with 7:37 to go in the final stanza and Memphis went on a 10-0 run until Cousins’ return at the 4:48 mark.
Sacramento was up by 20 points at the 3:31 mark of the third quarter when Cousins picked up his fourth foul and exited.
The Grizzlies responded with a 10-5 run without Cousins on floor, which would’ve been a 10-2 run if not for a Darren Collison circus 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer with Sacramento’s lead at 91-76.
Cousins and Rudy Gay combined for 47 points while Darren Collison scored 20 points and Ben McLemore chipped in with 17 points.
“We can’t afford to have DeMarcus Cousins sitting out minutes, meaningful minutes, because he’s got foul trouble," Malone lamented. "We’ve got to find a way to defend with our feet, defend with our chest, show our hands, and be solid. You have to learn to play with the lead so I’m very disappointed in this loss."
In similar fashion on Tuesday in Dallas, the Kings were up by 21 points when Cousins picked up his third foul and relegated to the bench.
A Mavs' 17-5 run was the turning point in that Kings loss as well.
“We just gave another game away," Malone said. "You have to win these games. There’s no excuse for these last two losses.
“I’ve got to do a better job. Obviously, our guys think they can just show up and win games, and they are sorely mistaken because these last two games are prime examples of what happens when you stop defending.”
THE GOOD: Another stellar first quarter for the Kings as they jumped out to a 22 point first-quarter lead while shooting 68 percent from the floor and holding Memphis to just 14 points.
“We had a tremendous first quarter. Right now we are a first-quarter team, and the other three quarters I have no idea who we are,” a perplexed Malone said.
THE BAD: Sacramento wasted a 26-point lead, committed 15 turnovers leading to 24 Memphis points and, over the final 36 minutes of the game, allowed 95 points, letting another victory slip away.
THE TAKE: The Kings are clearly being tested early in the season with eerily similar back-to-back road losses.
Sacramento has shown flashes of brilliance, but must improve its defensive focus and find a way to keep Cousins on the floor.
Finally, after two extremely tough road losses the squad has to be mentally strong enough to turn the page in a long NBA season.