Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on March 14, 2012
The Sacramento Kings lacked the energy necessary to win the game once again, as they fell to their Northern California rival Golden State Warriors 115-89 Tuesday night at Power Balance Pavilion.
The Kings were unable to capitalize on the Warriors’ forced improvisation with their rotation following a trade made just before the game.
The Warriors decided to make a splash before the trade deadline by swapping out guard Monta Ellis, former first-overall pick Kwame Brown and second-year forward Ekpe Udoh in a five-player trade. In return from the Milwaukee Bucks: the injured Andrew Bogut and a disgruntled Stephen Jackson. Ellis was the Warriors’ leading scorer this season with 21.9 points and 6.0 assists per game. s coach Mark Jackson to insert rookie guard Klay Thompson into the starting lineup, alongside veteran Nate Robinson, who was playing for the injured Stephen Curry.
Golden State’s new rotation took advantage of the increased minutes on the floor by executing well on the offensive side of the floor while shooting 12-24 from the three-point line as well as 48 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, the Kings appeared as if they took the Warriors’ new rotation lightly, as they never seemed to have the energy needed for the game.
“Things that were taking place with their team, that’s all the whole chatter was in the locker room, and things just got crossed up from there. We weren’t the same team,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “Somewhere in there, the mindset wasn’t there.”
Veteran big man Chuck Hayes saw the lack of effort and knows that you can’t win without the energy.
“Obviously we was more in tune to what they had going on in their locker room than we did ours,” Hayes said. “We deserved it. We deserved to get our butts kicked.”
The trade talk didn’t seem to affect Kings guard Tyreke Evans, who started off strong with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting to lead the Kings in the first quarter, but the Kings still trailed.
DeMarcus Cousins struggled much of the first quarter and didn’t score until almost eight minutes into the game with an emphatic slam dunk.
From there, Cousins began to carry the Kings on his back in the second quarter. With the rest of the team struggling for the most part, Cousins made his next three field goal attempts, including a dunk over Warriors forward Dominic McGuire after a quick spin move around David Lee. Cousins also made 5-of-6 free throws in the second quarter, scoring 10 of the team’s 25 points in the second. Cousins finished with a team-high 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Even with Cousins’ strong play in the second quarter, the Kings still found themselves down 49-54 heading into halftime.
The Warriors were able to increase that lead, dominating the third quarter. Every time the Kings were able to cut into the lead, the Warriors made a run of their own.
Kings rookie Isaiah Thomas brought the deficit to just four at 73-77, but Warriors guard Brandon Rush extended it back to 11 with two three-point shots late in the third quarter.
From there, the Warriors pulled away from the Kings with a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter, causing Kings players to all but quit for the night.
Golden State outscored the Kings 31-16 in the final quarter for their 115-89 rout on a night they saw two of their key pieces traded away.
The young Kings squad seems to have a recurring problem of providing the energy needed to beat big teams but coming out flat against others, a problem Smart acknowledges.
“They got to grow up from that,” Smart said after the game. “They’re grown men when we play highlight teams, but for whatever reason, they can’t understand that these teams are just as important as highlight teams.”
But it’s not just Smart who recognizes the problem.
“We have to approach every game the same way,” Thomas said in the locker room. “Whether it’s the worst team in the NBA or the best team in the NBA, we have to approach it the same way. We have to succeed as a team and fail as a team.”