Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on April 30, 2012
The Sacramento River Cats' offense struggled on Friday night as the River Cats fell to the Tucson Padres 5-1 at Raley Field.
The River Cats' only offense came in the first inning with the first River Cat that stepped up to the plate. Leadoff batter Jermaine Mitchell, took a 0-1 pitch and launched it over the right field wall for his first homerun of the season, and 50th of his career. This brought the score to a 1-1 tie as Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal had hit a home run of his own with two out in the top of the first.
River Cats pitcher Travis Banwart gave up another run in the third inning when Padres third baseman Everth Cabrera stole third base with two outs and was brought home by left fielder James Darnell to put the Padres up 2-1 after three innings.
Sacramento failed to get any hits with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-7.
After giving up the home run to Mitchell, Padres pitcher Josh Greer was outstanding, giving up no more runs and just six hits overall during his six innings pitched. The Padres bullpen then came in and further shut down the River Cats’ offense, combining to allow no more baserunners in the final three innings of the game.
Only up by two runs heading into the final inning, the Padres were able to add on two insurance runs with little effort.
After another single, Cabrera stole both second and third base to give him four stolen bases for the game and on third with two outs. River Cats catcher Derek Norris only caught eight runners stealing in 17 attempts coming into Friday night’s game.
Following his two stolen bases, Cabrera scored on a throwing error by River Cats third baseman Stephen Parker, which also advanced Grandal to third base after drawing a walk to get on first base.
River Cats pitcher Merkin Valdez then threw back-to-back wild pitches with the first wild pitch scoring Grandal and bringing the River Cats deficit to 5-1.
Padres pitcher Brad Brach came in to close the game out. He recorded three straight fly outs for a clean ninth inning and finished the game with a 5-1 victory for the Padres.
Sacramento first baseman Brandon Moss continued his team’s season-high hit streak with a single in the first inning. Moss’ hit steak now rests at 11 games. His personal best was a 13- game streak recorded in 2005 while playing for Double-A Portland.
Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on April 27, 2012
The Sacramento Kings defeated their Pacific Division rival the Los Angeles Lakers 113-96 at Power Balance Pavilion Thursday night in the final game of the season.
With the win, the Kings finished 22-44 for the season. The Kings were 16-17 at home and only 6-27 on the road, a number they will have to increase if they want to succeed in the NBA.
Prior to the start of the game, Kings star DeMarcus Cousins came to center court and thanked the fans for being a great sixth man all year long, which brought a loud applause from the 16,281 in attendance.
Though the Lakers sat all of their starters in anticipation for the beginning of the postseason on Saturday, the Kings began the game strong and gained the lead early and never looked back.
“I thought they played well,” Kings coach Keith Smart said after the game. “They came out and put on a nice show for our fans, and it’s a good way to close out on our season and transition into our next season, the summer workouts.”
Cousins led all scorers in the first quarter with nine points, also hauling in nine rebounds as the Kings took a 35-24 lead after one quarter. Cousins’ nine rebounds in the first tied the Kings season high for rebounds in a quarter.
Though the game was meaningless in terms of standings, both Lakers fans and Kings fans cheered as they watched their teams perform. No play drew a louder reaction than the monster dunk provided by Terrence Williams late in the first half.
The Kings big guys in the middle proved to be too much for the Lakers’ interior defense as they continuously ripped them apart. Jason Thompson finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Cousins finished with 23 points and grabbed every loose ball in sight, resulting in 19 rebounds. Overall, the Kings scored 66 points in the paint.
The Kings were able to build their lead to as many as 24 points, which proved too much for the depleted Lakers squad, with the Kings coasting in the second half to the 113-96 victory.
Lakers coach Mike Brown decided to leave his starters on the bench in order to give them some rest before their postseason opener against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. Kobe Bryant needed 38 points to win the scoring title instead of Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant, but he instead watched from the bench all game.
While the Lakers look ahead to their series with the Nuggets, the young Kings team looks ahead to an offseason to learn and become better.
“It’s all about this offseason now and working as hard as we can to get back and be better next year,” guard Jimmer Fredette said.
Rookie Isaiah Thomas believes that Smart is the right guy to turn the team into a better cohesive unit on the floor. Smart took over as interim head coach shortly after the beginning of the season, replacing Paul Westphal, before the front office decided to keep Smart around as head coach next year as well.
“I think with this summer and having a full season to really prepare and get us better as a group, I think the sky’s the limit for him,” Thomas said. “He’s a great coach. He’s really in on detail, percentage wise, on offense, defense, he’s going to have us ready. Especially come training camp, you got to be ready and be in shape. I believe in him just like he believes in us.”
Thompson, who is a free agent in this offseason, believes there are upsides to this team, the youngest in the NBA.
“You can definitely see some bright spots,” he said. “Most of our wins were against quality teams. We played to the level of competition.”
Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on April 18, 2012
The Sacramento River Cats (10-3) were able to extend their winning streak to four as they defeated the Tacoma Rainiers (4-8) 5-1 at Raley Field Tuesday night.
Right fielder Michael Taylor continued his strong start to the season, recording two doubles and a walk on four at-bats. Taylor entered the game batting .413 with one home run and 11 runs batted in. Taylor's .413 batting average heading into Tuesday night's game was ranked seventh in the Pacific Coast League.
“I feel good at the plate,” he said. “I feel comfortable with everything I’ve worked on in the offseason coming into this season, and I’ve stuck to that plan and process, and right now things are going well. I’m swinging the bat, and the balls are finding the grass, so as long as I keep doing that, things will be alright”
Taylor’s offensive outburst has not gone unnoticed and is welcomed by the River Cats pitching staff, who appreciates run support.
“He’s seeing the ball well, and I think other teams are noticing that,” starting pitcher Bruce Billings said. “When he comes up to the plate, he’s not someone to mess with. He definitely puts a big bat in the lineup, and it’s definitely nice to have on your side.”
Right-handed pitcher Billings got his first start for the River Cats on his first day in the locker room after being called up by AA Midland. Billings was part of the Oakland Athletics trade that sent longtime second baseman Mark Ellis to the Colorado Rockies and allowed former River Cat Jemile Weeks to make his major league debut.
Manager Darren Bush was pleased with Billings' work on the mound, tossing 67 pitches in 3.0 innings of work, allowing one run on four hits and one walk while recording four strikeouts. Billings was unable to record the win though, as the score was still 1-1 when he was relieved.
“He did a good job,” Bush said. “He came in, attacked hitters. He went at them and did exactly what we wanted them to do. He got some foul balls and things that drew the pitch count up a little bit, but it’s what we wanted.”
Tacoma’s only damage came in the first inning when their designated hitter Mike Carp reached first and then stole second before Vinnie Catricala drove him in to give them the 1-0 lead after one inning. Catricala is a Sacramento native and former Jesuit High School Marauder baseball player.
But that was the only run the Rainiers would score. Billings and the rest of the River Cats pitching staff were outstanding, allowing only one run on nine hits.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that throw real hard,” Taylor said after the game. “Our bullpen is fantastic. Everyone pretty much runs it up there 94 mph-plus. We have some veterans who have had some success at this level, guys with a lot of experience and guys who know how to pitch at this level.”
Sacramento first got on the scoreboard in the second inning with shortstop Adam Rosales hitting a single to bring Taylor across home plate following his first double of the day.
The River Cats gained the lead in the third inning and didn’t relinquish it from there on. Rainiers starting pitcher Mauricio Robles gave up a single and then walked two consecutive batters to load the bases with one out. But the River Cats would only capitalize for one run when Brandon Moss hit a sacrifice fly to score Jermaine Mitchell, followed by catcher Derek Norris flying out on the infield.
The only other scoring for the River Cats came in the bottom as the eighth as they earned three more insurance runs. Moss began the rally with a single but then was advanced to third base on a double by Norris, with only one out. Rosales hit a double of his own before scoring when Rainiers right fielder Chih-Hsien Chiang dropped a routine fly ball that would have ended the inning.
Sacramento prevented any chance of a Rainiers comeback as they preserved the lead to earn a 5-1 win, giving the River Cats a 10-3 record early in the season.
“We are just playing good baseball,” Bush said. “We have good pitching and timely hitting. So far it’s working out.”
Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on April 9, 2012
The Sacramento Kings dropped their fourth straight game as they fell to the Houston Rockets 104-87 at Power Balance Pavilion Sunday night.
Sacramento came out with little energy, and it showed as the Rockets jumped to a quick 10-2 lead and never trailed the rest of the game.
“We just didn’t have a lot of energy tonight, and that’s something we’ve got to work on,” Kings guard Jimmer Fredette said. “We’ve got to continue to get better at that and come bring it every single night so we are disappointed with ourselves.”
After scoring at least 99 points in their previous 12 games, the Kings have been held to under 85 points in their last three games.
Coach Keith Smart attributes this to the team not being at full strength right now with injuries to Marcus Thornton (calf), John Salmons (hip) and Francisco Garcia (concussion).
“I just think our team is not our team right now,” he said. “We are patching it up right now. We have guys that are normally rotation guys trying to come in and play frontline teams.”
But Kings veteran Chuck Hayes doesn’t believe the Kings should have any excuses this late in the season.
“Everybody should know each other’s sweet shot and their sweet spot where they want the ball and their most effective and so on and so forth,” he said. “We are still playing like it’s the beginning of the season. We are still trying to find ourselves, and we should have that figured out by now.”
With all the injuries, the Kings have failed to be the running team that Smart wants them to be, only scoring 12 fast-break points on Sunday.
“We haven’t run any more the last couple of games,” he said. “We are not getting up and down the floor, and we are not making the easy plays. We are trying to force something.”
Instead, it was the Rockets who continued to beat the Kings in transition as they took a 58-43 lead heading into halftime.
Smart then turned to his second unit in an attempt to get some more energy. The Kings bench was able to bring the deficit to just eight points when newly acquired Terrence Williams hit a jump shot to make the score 73-65.
But that was as close as the team would come, as the Rockets once again pulled away when Fredette missed a transition three and the Rockets capitalized with a lob to Rockets big man Samuel Dalembert.
From there the Kings were unable to stop the Rockets offense as they ran away with the game and captured the 104-87 win.
Williams, who was originally signed to a 10-day contract and then for the rest of the season, continued to be a bright spot for the Kings. Williams scored a season-high 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists. But he said going against his former team didn’t give him any added motivation.
“I really didn’t care,” he said. “It just so happened I scored whatever I scored and rebounded. I’m beyond payback with the Rockets. I don’t care for them. I wish I wished them well in the playoffs, but I really don’t. I have no thoughts for them. It’s all about Sacramento, and we need to grow as a young team.”
Even with Williams’ strong game, he sees room for improvement, especially in the turnover category, as he had five turnovers Sunday night.
“I can’t speak for everyone else, but you’re trying to do too much in one play,” Williams said. “You’re trying to get a point, a rebound and an assist on the same play. So sometimes you over dribble, turn the ball over. I definitely take blame for that. You just learn and move on.”
Williams’ teammates appreciate what he has brought to the team, including his ability to drive and get the ball to an open shooter.
“He does a good job finding everybody no matter whoever it is out there,” Fredette said. “He’s a good player and can pass the ball well and looks to throw it to you. He’s done a great job with that and he’s a great addition to the team.”
Sacramento hopes to get back to winning as they head out on a three-game road trip starting in Dallas against the Mavericks on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on April 4, 2012
The Sacramento Kings were unable to achieve back-to-back wins as they fell to Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns for the third time this season Tuesday night at Power Balance Pavilion.
DeMarcus Cousins did all he could, leading all scorers with a career-high 41 points en route to the 109-100 loss. Cousins also hauled in 12 rebounds and shot 16-25 from the field.
“He had a career night taking advantage of their interior,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “We had him posting up in different areas on the floor, so he had both baseline- and middle-drive. Then they started doubling, and that’s something that’s going to happen to him as he grows as a pro.”
But not even Cousins’ monster game could overcome Nash’s collected control of the game.
As he has done so many times throughout his 15-year career, Nash orchestrated the Suns offense nearly flawlessly and took over the game late when the Kings threatened to steal the victory.
“I believe tonight it was five against one,” Cousins said. “It was all five of us trying to guard Steve Nash. All the credit to Steve. He’s an incredible player, and he knows how to run his team — definitely a professional, and one of the best points (guards) to play this game. He’s a tough matchup, for anybody.”
Nash put on a clinic when running his pick-and-roll offense, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds, a game-high 12 assists and only one turnover.
“In the pick and roll, he’s probably the best, along with Chris Paul, I think, in the NBA,” Kings forward Tyreke Evans said of Nash. “He dribbles the ball so much, then the guy cuts and he finds the open guys. He’s done it for years.”
The Kings started slow, falling behind by as many as 17 in the second quarter and trailing 59-51 at halftime.
Sacramento then came out and played solid defense in the third quarter to hold the Suns to only 20 points in the quarter, while the Kings offense connected to score 27. Newly acquired King Terrence Williams hit a jumper at the end of the quarter to bring the deficit to just one point at 79-78 heading into the fourth quarter.
Sacramento regained the lead on the first possession of the fourth quarter when forward Travis Outlaw hit two free throws to give the Kings an 80-79 lead. Sacramento's first and only other lead occured when they held a 10-9 lead early in the first quarter.
But then the veterans on the Suns took over. Veteran guard Michael Redd got the hot hand and scored six quick points to keep the Suns ahead, followed by Nash returning to the game to close out the Suns victory.
With the Kings deficit down to just four points with a little over five minutes remaining, Nash took advantage of two Kings mistakes, allowing him to hit a three followed by a running jump shot to extend the Suns lead 99-90. The lead proved to be too much for the Kings.
“Just a breakdown at the end,” Cousins said in the locker room. “We kind of broke down, took some steps back tonight. We just got to make plays down the stretch and finish the game strong. Once again, it’s the last couple of minutes that’s killing us, and it results in a loss.”
Despite the loss, Smart saw improvement in his team, the youngest in the NBA, and approved of their resilience.
“I thought our guys did a really good job,” he said. “I thought we played and managed to get ourselves back into the game from a 17-point deficit. They could have rolled over, but they did a good job and held their composure and chipped away at the score.”
The Kings struggled from the free-throw line, which once again contributed to their demise. Sacramento shot just 21-of-32 (65.6 percent) from the foul line, whereas the Suns shot 24-28 (85.7 percent).
“We have got to make our free throws,” Smart said. “In a close game, you have to knock those free throws down. We did a good job getting into the bonus (fouls), getting us to the line, but we just have to make those foul shots.”
Evans finished with only eight points, six rebounds and four assists. Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas added 25 points, three rebounds and seven assists to his outstanding rookie season. The Suns were led by center Marcin Gortat, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late in the game.
The Kings will look to get back into the win column as they take on Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers at home on Thursday at 7 p.m.