The Sacramento Kings needed a bounce back game for pride's sake alone, and while the outcome wasn't what Michael Malone and his troops wanted, the 93-91 loss to the Playoff hopeful Mavericks was a step in the right direction.
Rudy Gay dominated with 32 points, eight assists and six rebounds and DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 10 rebounds, but the remainder of the Kings depth added just 30 points in the loss. Monta Ellis had 23 points while Vince Carter added 17 bench points for the Mavericks, who maintain possession of the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
The Kings had a shot at overtime after Dirk Nowitzki made just one of two free throws to make it 93-91, but an disjointed offensive possession ended with Cousins airballing a long jumpshot.
It's hard to count any loss as a moral victory, but Sacramento played with much improved effort, especially on the defensive end. Dallas shot just 40.4% from the field, and Nowitzki struggled all game long, finishing with 15 points on 5-17 shooting.
After the debacle in Oakland on Friday (this being the last time that contest ever needs to be discussed), it was excellent to see the Kings rebound with energy. The team struggled to maintain a consistent offensive production, but Sacramento held their own for most of the game against a very solid and deep Dallas team. Given that the Mavericks were playing for a Playoff birth while Sacramento played for nothing but pride, the outcome wasn't a real disappointment.
Still, there were concerning signs for the Kings. While Gay and Cousins combined for 60 points, players not named Gay or Cousins shot just 12-35 from the field, or 34%. The Kings also failed to zone out on three point shooters in the fourth quarter; the Mavericks scored four straight threes, capped off by a Monta Ellis bomb with 3:04 to play that put Dallas up 87-82.
With Isaiah Thomas missing his seventh straight contest, rookie Ray McCallum had another solid performance, finishing with eight points and nine assists. Fellow rookie Ben McLemore was mostly invisible, getting just five points on 2-9 shooting while struggling to contain Ellis on the defensive end.
The schedule gets no easier for the Kings down the stretch, with three more upcoming games against Playoff bound squads. The Kings play the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, and then head on the road to face the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday and the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday
For the opposing perspective, visit Mavs Moneyball.