Some game tapes you burn. That is what the Sacramento Kings will likely do with the film from Wednesday night’s 132-98 blowout loss on the road to the Houston Rockets. Drop it in a metal waste can, hit it with some lighter fluid and toss in a match.
Although they sit at just 9-16 on the season, the Kings haven’t had many stinkers this year. They’ve fallen behind early in games, fought to catch back up and run out of gas down the stretch in multiple contests. But outside of the Nov. 5 drubbing at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento has been competitive.
Without DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore, Dave Joerger and his staff had to know coming into the Toyota Center that they were in for a long night. But there is no excuse for allowing the Rockets to shoot 22-for-42 from behind the 3-point line and 58.8 percent from the field overall.
“Certainly they shot well,” Joerger told media members following the game. “I think they were shooting 65 percent from three on us for most of the night. Once they got ahead of us, it became three and easy.”
Seven different Rocket players hit two or more 3-balls led by Trevor Ariza’s 5-for-7 performance. Houston missed tying the NBA record of 23 makes by just one, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Despite the big lead, they continued to hoist until the final buzzer.
“It’s fun to play in,” veteran Matt Barnes said of Mike D’Antoni’s style of play. “They’re shooting 50 3’s a game and moving the ball like that. I’ve been in a system like that before and it’s fun.”
While it might be fun to play in a system like D’Antoni’s, it doesn’t feel all that good to be on the other end of a beating like what the Kings took on Wednesday evening. Sometimes you run up against a buzzsaw and there is very little you can do to change the outcome.
“They’re a very good team, they shot the heck out of it and hats off the them,” Joerger added.
Of course the Kings came into the night missing three starters, including their first and second leading scorers. Gay and McLemore missed the game due to injury, but Cousins was held out by the Kings for scheduled rest.
“It is what it is,” veteran Matt Barnes told reporters following the loss. “I think throughout the season teams are either going to rest people or have people hurt. Like I said before, it’s going to give other people a chance to step up and kind of get a rhythm.”
This was the first game this season that Cousins missed. The two-time All-Star is averaging 34.5 minutes per game on the season, but he is also second in the NBA behind only Russell Westbrook in usage percentage at 36.8 percent. He’s carried a tremendous amount of the load for Sacramento this season and the team is looking out for his long term health.
“We’ve got to weather the storm until Ben and Rudy get back, I think DeMarcus is playing in our next game,” Barnes said. “We’ve got to pick up the pieces, man, and continue to try to play hard and improve.”
Both Gay (hip flexor) and McLemore (thigh contusion) are listed as day-to-day. Their availability for Friday night’s game in Memphis is unknown at this time, but the NBA schedule stops for no man.
With 60 percent of his starting lineup unavailable, Joerger gave two of his rookie first rounders some burn late Wednesday night. Malachi Richardson played the entire fourth quarter for Sacramento, while Skal Labissiere joined the lineup for the final six minutes in the loss to Houston.
“I think it was a confidence booster for me,” Richardson told reporters following the game. “Being here for the first few games and not really playing, and going in there and playing and doing well, I think it helped my confidence a lot.”
Richardson scored seven points on 2-of-5 shooting, including a smooth looking 3-pointer. He added three rebounds, two assists and a steal in just his third appearance in an NBA game.
“It’s definitely different, the speed of the game is different, guys are bigger and faster, so it’s definitely an adjustment, but I think I’m doing pretty well with it,” Richardson said.
Labissiere scored two points and grabbed a rebound in six minutes of action. This was the second time this season that Labissiere has seen action for Sacramento after being drafted out of Kentucky with the 28th overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft.