SACRAMENTO -- When you are a 6-10 team sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference, there is no such thing as a trap game. You don’t have the luxury of overlooking an opponent, in fact, you haven’t earned the right to overlook an opponent.
The Sacramento Kings clearly didn’t respect a now 8-8 Minnesota Timberwolves team on Friday evening. And now they are a 6-11 team facing a 17-0 Golden State Warriors that is destroying everything in their path.
“Tonight was a struggle,” coach George Karl added. “Offensively in the second half, defensively in the first half. I think in a lot of ways mentally we fatigued by not respecting our opponent, because this is a good young team.”
“We all as players have to look at ourselves, which is bad,” Casspi said when asked about his coaches comments. “For coach to feel like that, is bad.”
Minnesota is one of the youngest teams in the league and they have been faced with unbelievable adversity early in the season after the death of head coach Flip Saunders. The fact that they find themselves at .500 speaks volumes to their character.
The Kings were once again without the services of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, but that is no longer a reason for losing, it’s becoming an excuse. Cousins has missed seven of the Kings 17 games on the season. The Kings are just 1-6 in those contests. If they aren’t used to playing without him by now, they never will be.
With 10 new players, there should be an adjustment period. But we are well passed an issue of finding chemistry. Offensively, this is one of the best teams in the league -- with or without Cousins. This team can almost find a rhythm at will and run an opponent off the court.
At some point, this team has to get stops, both individually and as a team. Until they do, the Kings will continue to show that they are good enough to not get blown out, but not good enough to overcome even the smallest bit of adversity.
“You have to blame me, as much as trying to find answers is my job,” Karl said. “I’m the win/loss guy.”
Sacramento has talent, but they lack an identity. On Friday night, they let a team that should be years behind them in development walk all over them on their home floor. A team that they clearly didn’t respect.
“It’s bad, it’s just bad, bad basketball, man,” Omri Casspi said. “We’re not in that position. You’re never in (that) position in basketball. The game is too good, you know, you can’t cheat the game.”
On Friday night, the Kings tried to cheat the game and the Timberwolves made them pay.
The bench unit of Darren Collison, Marco Belinelli and Omri Casspi continues to shine. The trio combined to score 42 points tonight on 17-of-31 shooting from the field and 7-of-14 from behind the arc.
Belinelli led the way with 17 points, but Casspi added six rebounds and Collison chipped in three assists. Karl has tightened the rotation to just these three for the majority of the second unit minutes and there are times where you can’t even think of taking them off the floor.
After a brilliant two-game stretch that had Rudy Gay averaging 32 points a night on 62 percent shooting, the 29-year-old couldn’t hit the water if he fell out of a boat on Friday.
Gay went 1-for-13 from the field and scored just two points in the loss, but that didn’t stop Karl from reinserting him back into the game during the fourth quarter.
This is a game tape that Gay will probably burn, or at least delete from the Kings main hard drive.
The Kings Achilles heel continues to be their inability to get defensive stops. Individually, the players are making mistakes, but more importantly, the team defense 17 games into the season is still well below NBA standards.
“I think it’s more of a team thing,” center Kosta Koufos said. “The bigs need to communicate a bit more and the guards need to go through screens a little bit better, but it’s a combination of everything.”
Minnesota shot 48.1 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc for the game. Even when the Kings did get stops, especially down the stretch, they couldn’t grab the rebound.
This isn’t a new trend. The team has struggled all season long, ranking 29th in points allowed per game at 108.9 a night. They also rank 30th in the league in opponents two-point field goal percentage (53.3) and 29th overall in field goal percentage allowed at 46.9 percent.
“On the road trip we had moments of good defense, but for the most part we had a little bit of an attitude to trying to outshoot people, outscore people,” Karl said. “Defensively, at times we do the right things. We have weaknesses there, our presence on the ball, our 1, 2, and 3 men got to take more pride.”
Be it pride, attempting to outscore opponents or a flawed scheme, the Kings are a sieve on the defensive end. They struggle with the most rudimentary rotations and there is often a purple carpet running right up to their basket for opposing players.