Not that there wasn't enough going on earlier tonight at Sleep Train Arena (can you say arena issues and Seattle?), but the Kings blew yet another huge lead - this time a 17-point advantage against the aging Dallas Mavericks. Next up Saturday night? The defending NBA champion (if slumping) Miami Heat and LeBron James, who didn't visit last season because of the lockout-shortened 66-game schedule.
So, here are just a few thoughts after a game the Kings absolutely should have won:
* Just a guess here, but Keith Smart will probably not give himself a very high grade after he watches the replay and breaks down the possessions, as is his practice.
* During key stretches when the Kings should have been blowing the game open, Isaiah Thomas, who pushed the pace and finished with 18 points and four assists in 31 minutes, was on the bench; Tyreke Evans, who has flourished off the ball, was inexplicably thrust back into his old lead guard position and was far less effective; John Salmons forced several shots and was the biggest offender when the offense reverted to one-on-one; Jimmer Fredette hit two of three shots, spread the floor, and still only played eight minutes; and Franciso Garcia, who converted four of eight attempts, too often was ignored when he was open in the corners.
* DeMarcus Cousins, who had an otherwise exceptional performance with nine boards, four assists, and 29 points, including a terrific baseline spin move that split a double-time, was tagged with a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected with 41 seconds remaining in overtime for tagging Vince Carter with a forearm in a scrum for a loose ball. Cousins simply has to do a better job maintaining his poise. He is too talented and too smart for this ongoing nonsense. That said, after watching the replays, I think a Flagrant One would have been adequate. While Cousins clearly swung and popped Carter, he immediately reached out and extended his hand to the Mavs veteran. Once again, league officiating supervisor Stu Jackson will review the play and determine whether to rescind the second technical, leave the matter as is, or further punish Cousins.
* The Mavs repeatedly frustrated Cousins in the second half, exploiting the Kings lack of perimeter shooting and dribble penetration, and their dreadful ball movement. The third-year center was triple-teamed, and on at least one occasion that I can recall, had four defenders swarming. Is there a point guard out there somewhere? Anywhere? An extra pass? Sometimes?
* Aging Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki converted only 7 of 21 shots, but still managed to collect nine boards. The Kings (who committed 20 turnovers and amassed 23 assists), were outrebounded 52-41.
* Despite all the arena uncertainty, the blown lead and the frequent offensive lulls, the crowd was energetic, engaged and hopeful. I will say it again and again: I have covered the NBA for newspapers in four cities, and Sacramento fans deserve better than the constant threat of relocation.