Now chest-bump and make everything all better. - Eric P. Mull - USA Today
Both teams had trouble shooting from outside but the Kings were able to take advantage inside on their way to 52 points in the paint. With Anderson Varejao out, the Cavaliers struggled to find answers for DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson. Francisco Garcia also shined in the victory with some key defensive plays late.
The Kings got their second road win of the year tonight but it didn't come easy. Sacramento couldn't hit a shot from outside, but fortunately neither could the Cavs. Neither team was able to get any real separation from the other and the game was relatively close throughout. The Kings did have a distinct advantage that proved to be the difference maker though and that was their big men.
Cousins was an absolute beast for the Kings, particularly in the third quarter. He got good positioning down low and played patiently most of the night. While he did have a couple of bad force shots late in the game, his impact on the boards (16) and in the paint were game changers. He also had a crucial late game steal on Kyrie Irving that transformed into the most hilarious almost turnover of all time (which would have been one of the most depressing actual turnovers of all time if Cisco hadn't been there to save the day):
Since coming back from his "indefinite" suspension, Cousins has been playing his best basketball of the season. He's playing smarter and calmer, moving the ball to open teammates and not overreacting to whistles. He even has been raising his hand up for some fouls and walks away. Kings TV also showed Cousins and Smart talking and smiling with each other during one timeout. We can only hope this version of DeMarcus Cousins is here to stay. He's like the Hulk: I don't like him when he's angry.
Jason Thompson also took advantage of the dearth of big men available, hitting shots from both inside and out. He finished with a team-high 19 points and also had 3 blocks to his name. Together with Cousins, he helped power the Kings interior play that led to 52 points in the paint while the Cavs merely had 36.
Although it was the big men who carried the team, it wouldn't have been enough without Francisco Garcia, who started for the injured Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. Garcia did a little bit of everything on both ends of the court. He made key steals and blocks down the stretch and was the only King to hit multiple threes. He finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
The Cavs were able to keep it close thanks to their guards and wings. Irving, who struggled early thanks to some good defense by Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks, found a groove late in the game to help the Cavaliers come back from double-digits to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Brooks was the lone bench player who had what I would consider a good game. The rest of the bench was largely awful and was mostly responsible for Cleveland's comeback. While Brooks was 6-10 from the field, the rest of the bench was just a combined 5-18.
Rookie Dion Waiters scored 20 points (albeit on 8-19 shooting) and showcased a lot of his potential as a scorer, though he definitely needs to become more efficient. Alonzo Gee was probably the most consistent player throughout for Cleveland, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in 39 minutes of play. He definitely outplayed his counterpart, John Salmons, who struggled with fouls most of the night.
Salmons did hit perhaps the biggest shot of the game for the Kings though, a three pointer in the corner to give the Kings the lead back for good at 92-90 with 52 seconds left. DeMarcus had drove into the paint and found Salmons in the corner after his man came to help. On the other end, Salmons played some good defense on Kyrie Irving, who got a little fancy with the ball and then slipped and threw it away, allowing Aaron Brooks to come back and score on a driving layup to give the Kings a 4 point lead with 18 seconds left. From there it was a free throw shooting contest and the Kings almost were perfect from the line, but Brooks did miss his last free throw, theoretically giving the Cavs a chance to tie the game. Fortunately the Cavs didn't have a timeout, and while Irving's heave from halfcourt nearly went in, it wouldn't have counted even if it did since time had expired.
One win does not mark a trend though and the Kings will likely have to play better than they did tonight to win Friday in Toronto and Saturday in Brooklyn. The Raptors have been surging since Andrea Bargnani has departed their lineup with injury, having won 8 of their last 9 games. However, like the Cavs, they are also undersized and Sacramento should look to the lesson they learned tonight and stick with what works.
- Whoever mentioned that the Cavs PA Announcer was one of the best in the league, I have to agree. Night and day difference between him and the Detroit PA guy yesterday.
- Chuck Hayes is a good passer, but the Kings coaching staff treats him like he's Vlade Divac or something.
- Who else caught the dude yelling after a Luke Walton missed three:"Yes, Luke. Keep shooting, please". Must have been a rogue Kings fan in the house. But when Walton did hit that three late, it hurt my heart.
- Isaiah Thomas must have read David Thorpe's rookie report calling him a bad defender today because I thought he did a terrific job on Irving defensively throughout. Offensively, Isaiah didn't have the best game but he did get the team into their offense and got 4 assists to just 1 turnover in 19 minutes.
- Some guys on the Kings should not be allowed to dribble the ball for more than a second or two and they are: Thomas Robinson, James Johnson, Chuck Hayes and Thomas Robinson (no typo).
- Where did Omri's career go? From one of the most promising rookies in his first couple months, he now doesn't play on a Cavaliers team almost as desperate for a Small Forward as us!
- Nostradumbass of the Night was RekenHavoc13 with 6 points in his first time on the prediction game. Also, when I ask for a player's points, rebounds and assists, please include those words with your predictions. If you write "20, 6, 7" I don't know if you meant 6 assists and 7 rebounds or 7 assists and 6 rebounds. I also found it funny how many of you picked Irving to lead the game in assists and then gave him a different assist number in the prediction for his stat line.