WASHINGTON 110, KINGS 107
Kenny Natt was already talking about redundant topics, so the transition was just too easy.
Falling short in a late-game situation? Playing defense in ole' fashion? No, it was time to talk about the Terrible Timeout.
Not just this one, but all the ones that came before as well. You've seen the scenario. The Kings are within a few points, and they waste precious seconds in the final moments by dribbling across halfcourt to call a timeout rather than call it on the baseline. It's just unnecessary to even inbound the ball, and it's quite remarkable that the issue that was prevalent in Reggie Theus' era remains as such under Natt.
And while the end result was the same this time, there was some long-awaited urgency surrounding the situation in the latest example. After Antawn Jamison's driving layup 24.2 seconds left put Washington up four, numerous Kings coaches hollered at the team to call timeout before inbounding the ball. But the request went unanswered, and 24.2 ticked down to 21.2 before Beno Udrih scrambled across halfcourt to call timeout.
While Natt was correct when he said the bigger issues like defense are of more relevance, we have obviously seen time and again how small nuances such as these late in games can play a big part in close games as well. And truth be told, this became a topic of discussion for the blog instead of the game story because of what happened immediately thereafter - Caron Butler was whistled for a foul on the inbounds pass after the timeout and the call put John Salmons on the line with 20.7 seconds left. Salmons hit one of two free throws to cut the lead to three, and it became a reality that the Kings would've had to foul even if the timeout had been handled differently.
"That's a relevant point that you make, but I don't want to pick out that one instance," he said when asked about the trend afterward. "Again, that's a bad thing to do, but I hate to pick out one instance there when we played as poorly as we did on defense.
"That plays into being smarter, playing smarter. That's the second or third time or more that we've done that, taking the ball up...It was an issue (under Theus). That's always been an issue. But at the same time, I would like to focus on the big picture itself, which is poor defense."
Stil, it begged the question as to whether these guys have discussed this problem at any point. And according to point guard Beno Udrih, they have not. He fully acknowledged that it qualifies as a shooting-yourself-in-the-foot type of habit, but said it's not his place to clear up the matter with his teammates.
"I'm not the coach," he said when asked why he wouldn't simply tell the respective big man inbounding to call timeout.
TRY, TRY, TRY AGAIN
Kitchen sinks can be heavy, so you can't blame Natt for being a bit off-target.
But the Kings coach at least threw it out there, changing lineups with the type of urgency one would expect and holding more players accountable than was the case the previous night in Denver. Seventeen minutes for Shelden Willams, eight coming in the fourth quarter in which the Kings' furious comeback fell short. Nine minutes for Bobby Brown, who had played a combined three minutes in the previous three games.
But the more significant move was the removal of Brad Miller, who had yet another uninspired start that helped put the Kings in an early hole. Andray Blatche was getting to the rim without obstruction, hitting four of five shots in the first seven minutes and inspiring Natt to put Spencer Hawes in at the 5:20 mark.
Unfortunately for Natt, Hawes - who had become a relative non-factor lately as his minutes and his production declined - was ineffective as well. Natt gave Hawes a long run, leaving him in until the 2:57 mark of the second quarter after his final few minutes were the "Ivory Tower" type because Miller had returned. Hawes was quiet then and again in the third before sitting the entire fourth, and he finished with just four points, three assists, two rebounds, no blocks and two turnovers in 23 minutes.
* Defense (orl lack thereof) will be more of a topic of discussion in Friday's paper, but here's a raw stat to whet your appetite: the Kings are allowing an average of 120.4 points in the last seven games.
* In the continuing Toilet Bowl circuit, the Kings and Wizards are now tied for road wins (three), although the Kings have 18 losses while Washington has just 17.
* The Kings are last in the league in home attendance, and their crowd of 10,821 on Wednesday was the third worst of the season.
* I'll have more on this in Friday's paper, but consultant Pete Carril assures me he isn't going anywhere despite his recent concerns.
* Kevin Martin headed home to his hometown of Zanesville, Ohio after Wednesday's loss to attend the funeral for his great grandmother.
The passing of Helen L. Bailey, 93, on Saturday was another tough loss for the Kings shooting guard, who said goodbye to his grandfather, Dallas Martin, in August. He will rejion the team in Milwaukee for their game on Saturday.
* The Kings can't count on practice to help them get better any time soon, as they start a stretch of seven games in 10 days on Saturday at Milwaukee. Five of those are on the road.
* I talked plenty about Udrih's breakout fourth quarter in the game story, but it's worth making one additional note: the 24 points was his highest scoring total since he had a career-high 30 points in a win over the Clippers on Nov. 12, 2008. - Sam Amick