A quick examination of the box score of the Kings 129-117 OT loss to the Brooklyn Nets in China reveals a major asterisk: "Coach’s Decision–DNP (did not play)" next to the names DeMarcus Cousins and Reggie Evans.
The primary reason given by Kings coach Michael Malone in his postgame press conference carried live by NBA TV was “rest,” although Malone alluded to a “sore Achilles” that Cousins has been enduring recently.
For the Kings that suited up, consistent defense continued to be elusive as Brooklyn exploited Sacramento early, scoring 32 points in the first quarter, 14 by Brook Lopez.
It not lost on Malone: “We played no defense tonight. ... We just have to do a much better job on defense ... to win in the difficult Western Conference."
The Kings, now 1-3 in the exhibition season, did battle back from an 11-point deficit at the end of the first quarter and ascend to a nine-point halftime lead (57–48) by limiting the Nets to just 16 second-quarter points.
However, the Kings defensive prowess proved temporary as six Nets were in double figures -- led by Mirza Teletovic’s 22 points -- before Brooklyn eventually finished it in OT, delaying both team’s charter flights back to the US from Beijing.
Brooklyn completed an NBA Global Games sweep of Sacramento in China with the win despite 22 points from Ben McLemore and 21 points from Rudy Gay.
While the trip was unsuccessful for the Kings on the floor, Malone cited a bright spot with the new-look Sacramento squad with only five returning players from last year’s training camp.
"This trip has been a positive even though we lost both games. ... A lot of time together to try to bond and create chemistry and trust. ... It’s not going to happen overnight, but a trip like this will definitely help," Malone concluded.
McLemore led the Kings with 22 points and commented on the Chinese fans, “They’re great. I love ‘em. ... It’s been a great experience here ... for me and my teammates and the whole entire Sacramento organization.”
A Little D
The Kings did find it defensively for one quarter, holding Brooklyn to just 16 second-quarter points.
McLemore had by far his best outing of the exhibition season, with a stellar 22-point performance featuring 3-of-4 from 3-point range, 5-for-5 from the free throw line and an overall 7-of-13 from the floor in 44 minutes.
Gay was solid despite being 1-for-5 from 3-point range scoring 21 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the field in just under 32 minutes.
Off the bench, Darren Collison provided a huge lift going 6-for-13 from the floor, 4-for-6 from downtown plus two free throws for 18 points in 18 minutes.
Omri Casspi scored 18 points while Nik Stauskas chipped in with nine points.
Defense – Too Easy
Defense again is a conundrum for the Kings allowing Brooklyn to score 129 points. It was too easy for the Nets, who shot 42 percent from 3-point range and registered an overall shooting percentage of 52 percent for the game.
Additionally, Sacramento was outscored by 20 points in the paint by Brooklyn and gave up 17-second chance points.
The Kings led by 13 points in the third quarter but squandered the lead.
Wins will be scarce if Sacramento continues to be inconsistent on defense allowing opponents to absolutely go off, padding not only their individual stats but also their win column.
There was good news offensively, but Sacramento cannot rely on outscoring teams to be successful.
There’s much to ponder for the Kings on their 12 1/2 flight back to California from Beijing in preparation for Maccabi Haifa’s visit to Sleep Train Arena on Saturday night.