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Rockets Stumble In Sacramento

Kings slow Rockets' roll, rally for 117-111 victory

HOUSTON - No NBA team plays box-of-chocolates basketball quite like the Sacramento Kings. They have talent to be sure. What they lack, however, is any sort of consistency or cohesion. One night the Kings can look like an up-and-coming young team; the next little more than a collection of misfit parts. The end result: you never know what you’re going to get.  

Unfortunately for the Rockets, most every flavor they encountered Sunday night left a sour taste in their mouth. Sacramento started by shooting lights out, draining an inordinate number of midrange attempts and long twos (read: the exact kind of shots Houston wanted the Kings to take). When those stopped falling, the Kings kept themselves in the game by rebounding everything in sight and racking up second chance points. And with the final result still hanging in the balance, the Kings cruelly raced past Houston by beating the Rockets at their own game, leaving the club to lament a bitter 117-111 defeat to kick off a three-game west coast road swing that only gets tougher from here.

“We talked about two things we didn’t do,” said a visibly frustrated Kevin McHale after the game. “We didn’t contain the ball which we had to do; they got where they wanted to go off the dribble – off the pick-and-roll, off Isaiah Thomas, off whoever had it – and offensive rebounds. They did both.”

Indeed, Houston succumbed to Sacramento in large part due to its inability to follow the basic blueprint for success laid out in its game plan. The Rockets’ defensive rebounding was disastrous – especially whenever Omer Asik was off the floor – allowing the Kings to corral a whopping 32 percent of their missed shots. And Houston’s efforts to contain dribble penetration proved just as futile as Sacramento spent the vast majority of the fourth quarter doing its best Houston Rockets impersonation by employing a drive-and-kick attack that put points on the board in bunches. Isaiah Thomas proved particularly unstoppable, racking up 17 fourth quarter points while the Kings collectively connected on five of their eight three-point attempts in the final frame – a toxic combination that effectively doomed the Rockets to defeat.

“Our help-side defense was terrible,” Chandler Parsons said bluntly. “We had guys get beat off the dribble. They’re a one-on-one team, we knew that going in, we just couldn’t contain them.”

And yet, for all that the Rockets did wrong Sunday night, they might still have emerged victorious if not for the superlative, beyond-the-box-score efforts of a player who had given Houston countless such performances back in the days when he was wearing Rockets’ red. Chuck Hayes was an absolute monster down the stretch and it’s no coincidence that the Kings’ fourth quarter rally began nearly the exact moment he returned to the floor after the enigmatic DeMarcus Cousins picked up his fifth personal foul at the 9:33 mark. The Rockets were up nine at that point and appeared poised to put Sacramento away behind the scoring exploits of James Harden (30 points) and the interior dominance of Asik (17 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks). Instead, Hayes took control of the glass and helped to slow Houston’s explosive attack with his trademark savvy, guile and defensive versatility. Within four minutes of his return, Sacramento had rallied to tie the game. Not long after, the Kings ultimately seized the lead for good, placing the Rockets in the unenviable position of needing to bounce back on the road against a Golden State team hell-bent on revenge after surrendering 140 points to Houston a week ago.

“It’s definitely a setback,” admitted Parsons. “I feel like we gave this one away. Coming down the stretch, we’ve got to go take it and we’ve got to win games like this. It’s only going to get harder on this road trip, too, going to Golden State and going to LA. Those games just got a lot bigger.”

And-1's: Earlier Sunday, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced that the team assigned center/forward Greg Smith to Houston’s single-affiliation NBA D-League partner the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Smith (6-10, 250, Fresno State) is averaging 5.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 44 games with the Rockets this season. In his rookie campaign of 2011-12, Smith averaged 16.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.15 blocks in 26 games (21 starts) with Rio Grande Valley. He was also selected as a 2012 NBA D-League All-Star. Smith finished as the 2011-12 D-League leader in field goal percentage (.668, 185-277 FG), was tied for 10th in the league in double-doubles (10), tied for 10th in rebounding average (7.8) and was 16th in blocks per game (1.15).

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

We talked about not giving up second chance points. We talked about two things we didn’t do: we didn’t contain the ball which we had to do; they got where they wanted to go off the dribble – off the pick-and-roll, off Isaiah Thomas, off whoever had it – and offensive rebounds. They did both.

(defensively without Asik)

We didn’t defend well all night with anybody on the floor.

(credit to the Kings for their shot-making tonight?)

They made some threes. They broke us down, got into the paint, collapsed us and made it.

JEREMY LIN

We put them on the foul line. I didn’t do a good job, we didn’t do a good job defensively being ready on the weak-side and containing the ball, maintaining the balance. They broke us down time after time.

Eventually, them getting to the line a lot, them getting into the paint, it took away our rhythm and just gave them momentum.

(their hot shooting to start – did it make you more vulnerable because it forced you to extend the defense a little more?

They did a good job of hitting shots and I think we wanted to make sure we got out to their three-point shooters. We just have to continue to trust and give up the shots that we’re going to give up and stay true to our system.

CHANDLER PARSONS

(rebounding and defense when Asik is out?)

I think our bigs, once they block out, our guards have to do a better job of coming in and cleaning up the rebounds. Our bigs don’t necessarily have to get every rebound; if they keep their man off the glass we should come in there and get the rebound. We all collectively as a group have to get better at that, especially when O is out of the game.

They got some second chance opportunities. Our help-side defense was terrible. We had guys get beat off the dribble. They’re a one-on-one team, we knew that going in, we just couldn’t contain them.

(dropping a game like this on the road – another sign of a young team?)

I don’t know but it’s definitely a setback. I feel like we gave this one away. Coming down the stretch, we’ve got to go take it and we’ve got to win games like this. It’s only going to get harder on this road trip, too, going to Golden State and going to LA. Those games just got a lot bigger.

Kings Head Coach Keith Smart

“That was another high-energy game. This team (Houston) has the capability of scoring in big numbers. They have James Harden, who is going to keep attacking at all times. We all knew that it would be tough to slow him down because he has the ability to shoot the three, drive the basketball and draw fouls. We wanted to slow some of their guys down who have been playing really well, like Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons. Late in the game, our guys did a great job of working, talking and switching in order to not give up wide-open threes. They did a great job with that. Chuck Hayes and Francisco Garcia did an excellent job on the floor. Isaiah Thomas made some big shots, some threes and also some drives to the basket.”

On the team’s performance in the second half:

“I thought that Isaiah Thomas got out there and made plays. John Salmons also made some big plays and some big three-pointers. Francisco Garcia made some big threes off of penetration by Salmons. Salmons has done a great job with his movement of the basketball. It’s very seldom that threes (small forwards) who are his size and are guarding pick-and-rolls can negotiate things. He’s a part-time ball handler. He finds guys rolling to the basket or he can find guys on the weak side. I thought he did a good job. The way that we pulled together to get a quality win after last night’s game in a back-to-back setting was really positive for our team.”

When asked why he didn’t switch the lineup later in the game:

“I thought that the group on the floor late in the game did all of the right things defensively. Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons made some plays from an offensive standpoint. Those guys did a great job of coming really close to driving guys to the line without fouling them. I think that they turned the game around and kept us in striking distance. We were able to make the defensive stops, but we were also able to make plays and that got us the win.”

Chuck Hayes

On the fans:

“The second game of a back-to-back is always a tough one but if you’re playing on your home court it gives you extra energy.”

On the importance of the win against his former team:

“It’s weird – all of my old teammates, no one is on the team anymore except for (Patrick) Patterson. It’s cool; it’s just another game. The only difference is the friends that I have in Houston, they got to see the game.”

When asked if he’s surprised by the support of the fans:

‘No, the fans are great – the fans are unbelievable; they’re passionate. I mean really the Kings are all they have so they show their appreciation and we try to do the same.”

On coming out of the tunnel with more fans in the building:

“When we’re playing well and this place is rocking – I’ve been an opponent on the other team – it gives me goosebumps. This place can get really loud.”

Isaiah Thomas

On the game tonight:

“I just wanted to be aggressive, especially when I got back in in the fourth quarter; I just wanted to make plays. Shots started to fall a little bit and then it got everybody going.”

When asked if he felt like he carried the team on his back:

“A little bit – I wanted to force the issue when I got back in in the fourth quarter because I felt like the first three quarters I really wasn’t being aggressive, not just for myself but to make plays for other people. I felt like there was no other time to do it but the fourth quarter. We were down when I came in and we had to push it. So we did a good job of that and guys got some energy off me just trying to be everywhere on the floor.”

On the importance of trying to get at least one win on the upcoming road trip:

“It’s very important. We want to get some momentum going into All-Star Break. We got two games at home, now we’ve got to take care of business on the road.”

On his 17 points in the fourth quarter:

“I was just aggressive. I was aggressive to make plays and that’s all it was. I made a few shots and then got to the free throw line as well. We made Houston be on their heels a little bit – every time they scored or every time we got a stop I just wanted to push the ball and I did that.”