At halftime, Michael Malone had a simple message for Ray McCallum, who was making his first NBA start Wednesday night against the New York Knicks.
A different, less passive McCallum came to play in the second half. Unfortunately, his improved performance after halftime was not enough as the Kings fell 107-99 to the Knicks at home Wednesday evening.
“I kept on telling him, ‘be aggressive– if you make a mistake, have it be an aggressive one,’” Malone told reporters after the defeat. “I thought he did a much better job in that second half than he did in the first. I hope it’s something he can build on.”
McCallum struggled from the jump in his first-career start. The Kings rookie guard missed his first eight-field goal attempts of the game, but went on to go 3-of-6 the rest of the night to finish with a respectable line – 10 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“The whole coaching staff, everyone helped me tonight,” McCallum said of the encouragement he received from his teammates and coaches on Wednesday. “Just came out in the second half and tried to play with confidence.”
McCallum got the nod in the starting lineup due to an injury to Isaiah Thomas. The 25-year-old point guard was sidelined with a right-quad contusion, which he suffered after taking a knee to the thigh from center Zaza Pachulia in Sunday’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
With Thomas missing in action, the Kings relied on McCallum and Rudy Gay to handle most of the ball-handling duties in Wednesday’s loss. However, it was DeMarcus Cousins who played the role of point center, finishing with a near triple-double. Cousins posted 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in the loss.
“It’s not about trying to score 30,” Cousins said after the defeat. “I’m trying to win a game. If it comes from me scoring 30, I’ll do that. If it comes from me grabbing 25 rebounds, I’ll do that as well. But I’m trying to win a game.”
The Kings had to dig themselves out of a 15-point hole after halftime. That was because their defense was suspect throughout much of the night, particularly in transition and from beyond the arc. The Kings allowed the Knicks to outscore them 18-2 in fast-break points and shoot 15-of-26 from 3-point land.
“That’s kind of been the story this whole season,” Malone said. “We don’t treat guys with the respect that they deserve when they’re a known shooter. They hit some tough shots and executed down the stretch. This was a must-win game for them, especially after the game that they played last night.”
The Kings fall to 25-46 overall and 15-21 at home. They begin a brief, three-game road trip with a visit to Oklahoma City on Friday.
Notes and Analysis
- DeMarcus Cousins continued his string of dominant performances, notching his eighth-straight and 45th overall double-double on the season. Cousins finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in 43 minutes, barely missing his second career triple-double.
- After appearing in all 70 of the Kings’ games this season, Isaiah Thomas missed tonight’s contest with a right quad contusion. Rookie Ray McCallum started in his place, playing 43 minutes in his first-career start. The 22-year-old guard missed his first nine shots, but came alive in the fourth, scoring 10 points and handing out five assists in the loss.
- Travis Outlaw came off the bench firing in the first half, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting before intermission. The veteran wing finished with 15 points in 27 minutes.
- Without Thomas in the lineup, the Knicks made a concerted effort to slow down Rudy Gay. The result was not only an eight-point victory for New York, but a less than stellar evening for the Kings third-leading scorer. Gay finished with 14 points on 4-for-10 shooting.
- Ben McLemore struggled with foul trouble, but still ended up with 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point land. The rookie needs to figure out a way to provide more than just points while on the floor. Tonight he finished with one rebound and a single assist in 31 minutes.
- J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony took turns burning the Kings all night long. Anthony scored a game-high 36 points on 12-for-21 shooting, While J.R. Smith scored 27 of his 29 points from behind the arc.
- Stat of the Night: J.R. Smith shot 9-for-12 from behind the 3-point arc. He fell one shy of tying a Sleep Train Arena for most made 3’s in a single game set by Mario Chalmers of the Miami Heat in January 2013.
Quote of the Night
Michael Malone on coming back in the second half:
“I told our guys at halftime that we didn’t make them feel us at all in the first half. They got whatever they wanted, and they got that very easily with no resistance or fighting. They shot 60 percent from the field and they were killing us on the glass in transition.
The one thing I was happy about in the second half was that I thought we competed. Instead of giving up 63 points, we gave up only 44. We cut it to two points with 4:30 left to go in the game.
Obviously, the three-point line killed us. You have J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony—that’s going to be tough to beat. They hit a couple of tough threes.
I loved the fight and the fact that we played with energy and became more aggressive. That’s why we had a chance to be in the game. If you defend 55 percent from the field and 58 percent from the three—you’re not going to be able beat anyone in the NBA.
I’m disappointed in our defensive effort as a whole, but I was very happy that we came out in the second half and came out and played with the type of defensive energy and spirit that we needed to.”
Video shot and edited by Tobin Halsey.