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Kings defense falters again in loss to Grizzlies

Memphis' Conley continues to capitalize as the Kings' losing streak grows to five

Published: Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 - 7:36 am

If Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley wanted to compile a highlight film of plays for his candidacy for the NBA All-Star Game, he could do so solely off his three games against the Kings.

Conley averaged 22 points and 7.5 assists in his first two games against the Kings and once again put up great numbers against the Kings, sending Sacramento to its fifth consecutive loss, 99-89, Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena.

Conley had 27 points and 10 assists, exploiting the Kings’ poor defense for a third time this season.

“The reason I like Mike Conley so much is because he’s’ a guy that plays both ends of the floor,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “That’s becoming a rare breed in the NBA ... He’s had his way with us all three games this year and that’s why he is the player that he is.”

Malone is in search for players that play both ends of the floor after watching the Grizzlies (24-20) shoot 54.7 percent.

The Kings are now 0-11 when allowing an opponent to shoot 50 percent or better.

Malone found himself sitting Marcus Thornton for much of the game and searching for someone that would put up a fight defensively.

“I’ve been a hypocrite all year,” Malone said. “I preach defense, that’s what I believe in and we’re one of the worst defensive teams in the league. So for me, if you don’t play defense, it’s not just Marcus Thornton, if you don’t play defense I can’t play you. It’s ridiculous that we give up 54 percent shooting to this team. They play a back-to-back and they come into our building and just score at will.”

Malone finds himself in a situation last year’s coach, Keith Smart was also in.

He might want to play defensive players, but that could mean not playing his best offensive players.

Whereas Smart had defensive-minded players like John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and Toney Douglas to turn to in those situations, the Kings don’t have as many players that could be called defensive specialists waiting on the bench.

“Our better offensive players have gotten us 15 wins,” Malone said. “At some point, yes they’re scoring the ball. One through 13, no one in there can say they’re defending at a high level.”

Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas said some of the blame for how point guards have torched the Kings does fall on him.

“I’ve got to do my job of trying to slow them down,” Thomas said. “But like I said it’s not an individual guy, it’s a team game and it’s team defense.”

The Kings were bolstered by the return of Rudy Gay. Gay missed the previous three games with a strained left Achilles suffered last Wednesday in a loss at Houston.

Thomas (illness) also played after leaving Monday’s loss at Utah in the second half.

The Kings (15-30) were still without DeMarcus Cousins, who missed his fourth game in a row with a sprained left ankle.

The Kings leave this afternoon for a two-game road trip at Dallas and San Antonio in back-to-back games.

Malone said he hoped Cousins would return for Friday’s game at Dallas, or Saturday in San Antonio.

Gay had 23 points and five assists, but also had a team-high five turnovers. Thomas had 24 points and five assists.

Gay said he was rusty and that he “tweaked” his foot, but he would be fine for Friday’s game at Dallas.

Gay, who surpassed 10,000 points in his career in the loss, was more concerned with the Kings’ inability to defend.

“It’s something that’s continually been a problem and I stand behind coach, you have to,” Gay said. “It’s not that he hasn’t pushed for us to play defense. I don’t know if we’re slow to do things, if we’re unsure but it needs to happen, it needs to happen fast if we ant to get wins.”

Read more articles by Jason Jones

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