It's a damn shame the Kings weren't able to play in the 2010 part of the schedule as well as they have in the 2011 part, because if they had, they might be scrapping around .500 and possibly fighting for a playoff spot. Instead, the Kings have been able to play competitive basketball against teams with much better records, but not winning enough of them. Thus, a 13-38 record.
Each game the Kings played in this week was close, and although they only won one out of their four games last week, they had a chance to take all of them, many in the final seconds. It wasn't meant to be though.
Sacramento started the week against Utah, and actually led for most of the game, until Utah switched up to a zone defense in the 4th quarter. DeMarcus Cousins was huge, scoring a game-high 25 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds in just 30 minutes of play. But he fouled out late in the game and wasn't available in crunch time. For Utah, they had strong games from stars Deron Williams (21 points, 9 assists) and Al Jefferson (23 points), but it was role players Raja Bell and Andrei Kirilenko who came up biggest. Bell, averaging just 8.4 points this season, took advantage of the fact that the much smaller Beno Udrih was guarding him for much of the game and scored 17. Kirilenko only scored 10, but it was his defense and active hands down the stretch that helped Utah. He had three blocks and a steal, but he disrupted passes, altered shot, and was just a general pest. The Kings had the chance to send the game into overtime at the end, but Omri Casspi badly missed a contested three at the end.
After the game, coach Paul Westphal and Tyreke Evans had a heated argument over Evans handling of Utah's zone defense (Evans had six of Sacramento's 20 turnovers). Evans left without speaking to the media, but the next day both Westphal and Evans said the matter was resolved. It was not to be the only off-the-court blowup during the week unfortunately.
The Kings saw Dallas come into town a few days later and got off to a hot start. Tyreke Evans had eight points, five rebounds and five assists in the 1st quarter alone as the Kings got out to a 28-20 1st quarter lead. Yet the team once again fizzled against the Zone Defense, which Dallas brought to play from there on out. Evans struggled to combat it, not scoring again until the 4th quarter, but finished one assist shy of his 2nd career triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists). Bizarrely, Dirk Nowitzki was almost a non-factor, scoring just 10 points on 4-14 shooting. It was Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Jose Juan Barea that would lead the way for Dallas. Kidd hit four threes, more than the entire Kings team, and Terry and Barea scored 22 and 20 respectively, each hitting huge three pointers down the stretch to seal the lead for Dallas. Sacramento saw its biggest contributions come from big men DeMarcus Cousins (19 points, 15 rebounds) and Samuel Dalembert (20 points, 7 rebounds). Cousins was ejected in the 4th quarter after a very controversial double-technical in which he and Tyson Chandler got tangled up battling for position on a free throw. The Kings put the ball in Evans' hands down the stretch to try to send it into overtime, but he failed to score or get a foul call on a wild drive straight into the heart of the Mavericks defense.
The brutal stretch continued on Saturday against the Thunder, a young team the Kings are trying to emulate. The Thunder controlled the game much of the time, led by Russell Westbrook (22 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Kevin Durant (35 points, six rebounds, two assists). The Kings managed to make it interesting late however, behind Tyreke Evans (30 points, nine rebounds, four assists), who had a big 4th quarter. Kevin Durant (an 89.5% free-throw shooter) missed two consecutive free throws with 5.5 seconds left, giving the Kings a chance to go to overtime or win the game. They went for the win, giving the ball to an open Tyreke Evans at the top of the 3-point line, but Evans three was just a little short and Omri Casspi's tip-in attempt was no good.
After the game is when things got a little bit out of hand. The final play against Oklahoma City was drawn up to either get the ball to DeMarcus Cousins or Tyreke Evans. Cousins thought he was open, and was displeased with the fact that inbounder Donté Greene gave the ball to Evans. He let this be known to Greene after the game, and the two came to blows and had to be separated. Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie made the call to have Cousins removed from the team plane to Phoenix, and to meet with him at the Kings practice facility yesterday. No decision beyond not playing against Phoenix (DeMarcus's first career missed game) has been made yet, although their is the possibility he misses the next two games before the All-Star Break as well.
The Kings managed to rally together as a team through the adversity and then beat the Suns in Phoenix (the first time they've done that since 2005) the next night, with a big boost from Greene himself (19 points). Carl Landry chipped in with 20, all in the second half, and Samuel Dalembert had a huge game starting in Cousins' place with 18 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes. Two-time MVP Steve Nash had 22 points and 18 assists and Marcin Gortat had 20 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, but it wasn't enough for the Suns.
In other news, the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved a 90-day feasibility plan for a new arena, led by David Taylor and ICON Venue Group. The group will come back in 90 days hopefully with a good idea with a solid plan on how to get an arena built. For Sacramento Kings fans, getting a new arena and keeping the team in town would be almost as good as winning a championship, because otherwise, it is very likely the team will end up moving due to the antiquated ARCO Arena.
In injury news, Francisco Garcia still hasn't returned from his calf injury and rookie Hassan Whiteside is still out with a patellar tendon tear. Jason Thompson came back from his sprained ankle to start against Utah and looks to be in good health once more.