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Mama said there’d be days like this.
During the long NBA season, there are games where a team will come up short but still feel they’ve played a good game. Saturday’s Kings game against the Mavericks was one of those games. Close — oh so close — but no cigar.
In a game where the Sacramento Kings led most of the way until the final moments, the home team couldn’t get off the game-tying shot in time as they let a nine-point lead with 5:24 left in the game slowly disappear, and the Dallas Mavericks pulled out the win 105-103 at Arco Arena.
Tyreke Evans (25 points, five boards and eight assists) played possibly his best overall game of the young season by hitting open shots, including three long-range bombs, finding teammates in good spots on the floor and even going to his left for a sweet reverse layup in the second half.
Alas, it was not enough as the Mavericks answered the Kings big shots with big shots of their own. Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, five boards, five assists) and Jason Terry (23 points) consistently hit their outside shots.
The Kings got off to a good start early spreading the floor nicely. Evans shredded the Mavs defense by either driving to the rack and kicking it back out or draining his mid-range jumpers. His shot is looking so much better when he doesn’t fade backward as he shoots.
The first quarter ended with the Kings leading 37-28.
One great note of progress for the young rookie DeMarcus Cousins (17 points, 11 boards) was that he didn’t pick up his first foul until 8:23 left in the first half — definitely the longest he’s gone into a game before picking up a personal.
Another interesting note is that Coach Paul Westphal really tightened up the rotation for this game. The only subs in the first half were Carl Landry, Samuel Dalembert and Pooh Jeter, who looks to be the guard Westphal will bring in now to run the point when Evans or Beno Udrih need a breather.
The Mavs made a run late in the second quarter fueled by Nowitski’s 15 points that helped the bring the Mavericks back. As the teams headed into the locker room at the halftime break, the Kings led 55-54.
One concern for the Kings should be that since Landry has been relegated to coming off the bench, his offensive game has been nonexistent. Even though he played over 28 minutes, Landry only had four points on one-of-six shooting from the field along with zero rebounds and five fouls.
The Mavericks stood tall in the third and the game headed to the fourth tied at 80.
Francisco Garcia, who entered the game for the first time late in the third, started to heat things up for the Kings. He scored eight points in a two-minute span early in the final quarter to help push the Kings ahead of the Mavs 94-81.
With 5:24 left, the Kings still held a nine-point lead.
Suddenly, the ball stopped falling for the Kings. The Kings missed eight of their next nine attempts and found themselves behind 105-101 with 28 seconds left on the clock before they made their next attempt.
The Kings were down by two as backup guard Jose Juan Barea went to the line to finish off the home team, but Barea missed both chances.
The Kings were still alive.
The final play was to get Evans the ball for a mid-range jumper or other easy shot, but the Kings couldn’t get Evans open and never got him the ball. With the clock running down, Landry tossed a last-second pass to opposing Terry and the clock expired.
The Kings lost a tough fought battle that saw them play the way Westphal thinks they can on a regular basis. Westphal continues to stress that it’s the lack of collective composure that’s the main factor the Kings can’t tighten the noose around the neck of opposing teams once they have them down.
“The one thing more than anything that I emphasized at halftime and after the game: For us to take the next step, we’ve got to have poise,” he said. “You can’t let the last play affect what you do in the next play in a negative way. That happened to us too often tonight.”
The better the offense looks and the more Cousins can stay out of foul trouble, the more Samuel Dalembert doesn't seem to fit. Dalembert can be a black hole win not hitting his shots and played only 16 minutes while scoring five points to go along with four boards . . . Donte Greene played well scoring 19 points . . . Uidrih had 16 points before a rare foul out . . . The Kings had a season-high 11 three-pointers . . . Luther Head appears to be the new odd man out as Westphal reiterated after the game that Jeter will continue to get minutes.
Photos by Steven Chea.