The Memphis Grizzlies clinched the West’s last playoff spot tonight. But what about the other team?
The Sacramento Kings could look across the court and see a team not totally dissimilar. Like the Kings, the Grizzlies have endured a multi-year playoff drought while fighting for scraps at the bottom of the brutal Western Conference. Each team’s period of suffering has yielded high lottery picks, at least some of whom have panned out.
There are even peculiarly trivial connections. Each team’s coach was an All-Star guard in the 1970s. Optimistic observers look at Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins and see an early incarnation of Grizzlies star Zach Randolph.
Most painful to Sacramento fans, each team now plays thousands of miles from its city of origin. The Kings, of course, are likely a few weeks away from their fifth franchise move, while the Grizzlies must be observing said drama, worrying about Memphis’ viability as an NBA city, and quietly making contingency plans in the back of their collective mind.
For tonight, though, the teams’ divergent fortunes were apparent to all. Memphis led the entire night and withstood a furious Kings rally over the final 2:30. With 16 seconds left, Tony Allen blocked Tyreke Evan’s game-tying shot attempt, and the Grizzlies hit three of four free throws in the last 10 seconds to preserve the win.
Randolph was the evening’s unquestioned star, abusing the Kings’ defenders down low with eight baskets in the paint and 10 free throw attempts. He pulled down 15 rebounds to go with his 27 points and even tied a season high with four steals.
His counterpart, Cousins, had one of the frustrating nights that have littered his rookie campaign, collecting four points, three rebounds, and five fouls in 16 minutes.
The Kings’ backcourt was little more help, with starters Marcus Thornton and Evans (cheered by the crowd in his return to Memphis, where he starred in college) combining to shoot 15-42 from the field. Thornton almost made up for it with seven points in the last three minutes to lead Sacramento’s comeback bid, but he missed the game-tying three-point attempt with under 10 seconds to go.
Sacramento’s brightest spots were the frontcourt duo of Samuel Dalembert (17 points, 16 rebounds) and Jason Thompson (15 and 12, his best output of the month).
The Kings also reminded observers of their painful lack of shooting by going 3-18 on three-pointers. Amazingly, this was not a season low; they were 2-21 against Denver just last week.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.