Kings snap losing streak as Harris, Lopez struggle

When a team’s top-two scorers go 6-for-21 from the field, chances are, it’s not going to win many games, even against an opponent on a losing streak that can’t seem to defend or win at home.

That’s exactly the fate that befell the Nets (4-8) in Sacramento last night, as they lost a low-scoring battle with the Kings 86-81. The win for Sacramento (4-7) ended its six-game losing skid, a streak which featured five losses at home.

Winning time: Despite leading after the third quarter, the Nets trailed for nearly all of the fourth quarter, but managed to stay within striking distance. Travis Outlaw’s jumper with 27 seconds left cut the Kings’ lead to two, but Beno Udrih’s 3-pointer with three seconds left – just as the shot clock expired – was the dagger.

How the night was won: This game was there for the taking for New Jersey, losers of eight of its last 10 after its 2-0 start. But when Devin Harris and Brook Lopez combine for just 17 points against a bottom-five defensive team, that’s almost-always going to be too much for the offensively-challenged Nets to overcome. If a few more threes went down last night, maybe all could have been forgiven, especially with the Nets holding Kings’ star Tyreke Evans to just 8-of-21 shooting, but New Jersey managed just 2-of-11 shooting from deep.

The lack of depth didn’t help matters for the Nets, either. Terrence Williams was out again with his abdominal strain and Quinton Ross strained a calf in the first half and did not return, so the Nets had to play Anthony Morrow 40 minutes and Outlaw 39. Consequently, the Kings’ bench outscored the Nets’ reserves 31-16.

The most decisive stat for either side was points off turnovers. Although the two sides were nearly even in team turnovers (17 for New Jersey, 16 for Sacramento), the Kings held a 25-11 edge in points off of turnovers. Harris led the Nets with a season-high seven turnovers in arguably his roughest performance of the season.

Player of the game: In a contest that featured a dearth of stellar performances, Udrih stood out for his 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting off the bench (2-of-3 from 3-point range), including his game-clinching 3-pointer. He also did not commit any turnovers.

Key stat lines:

Sacramento

  • Tyreke Evans: 8-of-21 shooting, 20 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers
  • Carl Landry: 7-of-12 shooting, 15 points, 6 rebounds, 6 turnovers
  • Luther Head: 10 points, 5 rebounds
  • DeMarcus Cousins: 2-of-8 shooting, 8 points, 10 rebounds

New Jersey

  • Kris Humphries: 9-of-12 shooting, 18 points, 10 rebounds
  • Anthony Morrow: 6-of-10 shooting, 17 points
  • Travis Outlaw: 13 points, 6 rebounds
  • Devin Harris: 3-of-12 shooting, 10 points, 8 assists, 7 turnovers
  • Brook Lopez: 3-of-9 shooting, 7 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks

One takeaway from tonight’s game: Kris Humphries continues to reward Avery Johnson’s confidence, having reinvented himself as a solid post defender at the 4- and 5-spots, an above-average rebounder and shot-blocker and an efficient post scorer. His double-double against the Kings was his third in five starts this season. New Jersey, which has seriously lacked a presence at  power forward since the days of Kenyon Martin, now has a logjam at the position, with Johnson also needing to find playing time for No. 3 pick Derrick Favors and veteran Troy Murphy. Murphy has been the subject of recent trade rumors, so he may not be in the picture for the duration of the season, but the Humphries-Favors playing-time split is going to be an interesting storyline to keep an eye on throughout the season. Since Humphries cracked the starting lineup, he’s averaged 32 minutes per game to Favors’ 18.6. Humphries is a free agent after the season and has been a journeyman since being drafted in the lottery by Utah in 2004. Favors, meanwhile, was hand-picked by the Nets to serve as a potential cornerstone for the franchise as it moves to Brooklyn. Humphries’ ability to play backup center for Lopez grants the Nets some flexibility in utilizing him, so the hope has to be that Johnson can continue to feature Humphries as long as he deserves it, while also not stunting the growth of the Nets’ star-in-waiting.

Topics: Anthony Morrow, Avery Johnson, Brook Lopez, Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Kris Humphries, Recaps, Sacramento Kings, Travis Outlaw

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