SACRAMENTO -- Carmelo Anthony missed a pair of free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining in the Kings-Knicks game Friday evening at Golden 1 Center. DeMarcus Cousins, like he had done most of the night, gobbled up the rebound. The Kings All-Star big took a couple of dribbles and then launched a majestic 52-foot shot that was right on target.
Instead of sliding through the net to force overtime, the shot caught front iron and careened off the rim. Cousins fell to the floor, acting out the despair that so many Kings fans in attendance felt. Kings lost by a final of 103-100.
The plan was laid out by coach Dave Joerger in the first week of training camp. First learn to how compete and then learn how to win. It was always going to be a process, but after another tough loss, this time on their home floor, the Sacramento Kings are becoming the poster child for “close, but no cigar.”
“We didn’t make a shot in the last minute, minute ten seconds,” Joerger said following the game. “It’s nobody’s fault. Nobody’s trying to miss. We executed and got where we wanted.”
Sacramento got the stops they needed, although they still gave up a few tough offensive rebounds down the stretch. The game came down to their inability to finish on the offensive side of the ball.
Down one with 21.9 seconds remaining, Cousins cut through two Knick defenders and stood all alone at the basket. His two-footer somehow rolled off the rim and into the hands of the Knicks.
With 3.9 seconds remaining and Sacramento trailing by 103-100, Rudy Gay missed a contested 3-pointer that would have tied the game. Again, no one tries to miss a game-tying shot.
You can’t ask for much more if you are Joerger. His best two players had the ball in their hands repeatedly down the stretch. They even had open looks, but sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce the way you need it to.
“It’s tough - frustrating loss,” veteran Omri Casspi said following the game. “Basically it comes down to down the stretch, making plays and knocking down shots. I felt like we had good shots, we’ve just got to make them.”
Sacramento shot just 7-of-21 from the field (33.3 percent) in the fourth quarter, but the ball movement stopped late in the fourth, especially when Ty Lawson left the game at the 5:19 mark.
The Kings did a nice job of defending the Knicks down the stretch, but it always comes down to a missed layup, a slow rotation or an offensive rebound by the opposition that does them in.
“We competed throughout the whole night, it’s just small mistakes,” Cousins said following the loss. “We’ve got to correct those or we’re going to continue to lose close games.”
The clock is ticking for Sacramento. With the loss, they have now lost four of their last five and sit at 8-14 on the season. Their schedule to-date was considered the second toughest in the NBA and it doesn’t get any easier Saturday night when they travel to Utah to take on the Jazz on the second night of a back-to-back.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” Darren Collison said. “We can’t sit there and say that we’re going to figure it out and lose these games because the West is not going to wait for us. We’ve got to be able to play - play the right way.”
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Kings. They see improvement, but they just can’t seem to get over the hump. They have been within in striking distance late in games in each of their last four losses, but the process of finishing games has been a difficult one.
“I think we’re in a good place, we’ve just got to continue to grow, keep our heads up, stay positive,” Cousins said. “I think we’ll be fine. Hate to say it, but it’s a learning curve.”
Sacramento will be tested on what they learned against the Knicks when they face a well rested, but injury riddled Jazz team that plays extremely hard under coach Quin Snyder.