Don Ryan / The Associated Press

Kings rookie Ray McCallum reacts after missing a 21-footer as time expired.

Kings’ effort improves but execution lags

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 9, 2014 - 11:34 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014 - 7:54 am

There was no questioning the effort this time.

One night after a lackluster fourth quarter against Oklahoma City, the Kings showed resolve Wednesday night, overcoming a 15-point deficit to take the lead in the final two minutes.

But the poise needed to close out the game was missing again, and the Kings lost 100-99 to the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on a late three-pointer.

The Kings had a chance to win but were unable to execute their final play as drawn up, and rookie Ray McCallum missed a 21-foot jumper with 0.3 seconds to play.

“Give (Portland) credit, but we have to execute better,” Kings coach Michael Malone said after his team’s fourth straight loss. “That’s setting plays up, setting screens, using screens.”

The Kings (27-52) led 99-97 on two free throws by DeMarcus Cousins with 14.8 seconds to play. But they couldn’t contain Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who drove to the basket and drew in the defense, leaving Dorell Wright wide open for a corner three with 7.9 seconds left.

Sacramento called timeout to set up a play, but as has been the case many times this season, what was planned and what happened differed.

“It was a high pick-and-roll for Ray and Cuz, and Cuz had been effective all night long in pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops for a shot or a drive,” Malone said. “I wanted Ray to come off, be aggressive and look to get the ball to Cuz, but he felt he had a shot, he took it and I’m OK with that.”

McCallum said he liked his final shot.

“I thought I got a good look,” he said. “It’s just a shot that I’ve got to make and knock it down.”

The Kings dropped to 3-32 when scoring fewer than 100 points.

“It’s an area that we’ve got to improve on, being able to close out games,” McCallum said. “… It’s just something for me to build on and learn from, learning how to close a game out. And as a team we’ve got to get some stops and execute down at the end.”

Said Malone: “We didn’t have great execution on that last play but great opportunity for Ray to try and make a play at the end. But it was a little bit short.”

Cousins finished with a game-high 30 points with 12 rebounds. McCallum had 23 points and eight assists.

Cousins said he was disappointed with the loss but was glad the Kings competed as opposed to their lackadaisical loss to Oklahoma City.

“I’d rather be in these situations than being blown out by 20 or having the game like we did against Golden State (on Friday),” Cousins said. “We’re playing some of the top teams in the West down to the wire.”

Cousins passed Brad Miller to move into ninth place in scoring in Sacramento history with 5,130.

Miller had 5,117 points in his Kings career.

Cousins also had his 51st double double of the season, breaking Chris Webber’s Sacramento record set in the 2000-01 season.

“It’s an honor to be in the same conversation with some of those players,” Cousins said. “They’re some of the greatest players to come through Sacramento, but I’ve got a bigger mission than scoring or beating a double-double streak. My goals are a lot bigger.”

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers (51-28) with 22 points. Wesley Matthews added 19 points, and Lillard had 19 points and 10 assists.

Wright’s three-pointer was his only basket.

“My first (game winner) since high school,” he said. “I’ve never been in that situation. Dame made a great pass. I used to be an All American first baseman, so it didn’t matter where he threw it. I just caught it and shot it with confidence.”


Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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