This offseason, the Sacramento Kings laid the red carpet out for Rudy Gay, practically begging him to pick up the final year of his contract. It was a sizeable financial commitment, but it's nights like this that must have the Kings brass smiling. Gay was an absolute flamethrower all night, finishing with 40 points on 13/19 from the field and 3/4 from three point range. Aided by a stingy defense, the Kings downed the Portland Trail Blazers by a final score of 103 to 94.
Gay and DeMarcus Cousins were aggressive right from the getgo, scoring 10 and 8 points in the opening quarter, respectively. Cousins was a mixed bag offensively for the rest of the game, at times struggling with the length of the Blazers' interior defenders and other times showing off his prodigious skill level with jumpers, flip shots, and decisive strikes down the lane. Cousins, however, provided his biggest impact on the defensive end. After a silly frustration foul sent him to the bench in the third, Cousins came back with a vengeance in the fourth, blocking two shots down the stretch and was a big part of the Blazers' offense faltering in the fourth quarter. One particularly outstanding play was a Cousins block, a quick outlet to Ben McLemore, who passed ahead to Gay, and received a beautiful alley-oop pass in a possession that ended without a single dribble.
The Kings received timely contributions from several players on the night. Darren Collison ran a tight ship the entire game, scoring opportunistically and running the team with a steady hand. Collison's individual stats (17 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds on 6/14 shooting) were impressive, but his true value was his defense against the Blazer's sweet-shooting Damian Lillard. Lillard struggled on the night, a feather in Collison's cap, to the tune of 4/14 shooting from the field. The bench also made some timely contributions, led by Omri Casspi's 10 points. Carl Landry finished the game at the PF spot, and he didn't disappoint, attacking the glass and defending LaMarcus Aldridge admirably.
The Kings' offensive execution was night and day compared to the second half of opening night. Although the team notched only 14 assists, they also committed only 10 turnovers for the entire game, and zero turnovers in the entire second half. Gay was the main beneficiary of the sharper execution, as he was able to get to his spots with greater ease. Gay scored from all over the court, from spot up threes, midrange jumpers while balanced as opposed to fading away, attacking the rim and getting to the line.
Next up on the Kings' schedule is the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
- Sessions continues to disappoint at backup PG, but at least this time he wasn't throwing the ball all over the court. Struggled with his shot and defensively couldn’t contain Steve Blake of all people.
- Perhaps for the first time in his career, DeMarcus Cousins' impact on defense outshined his impact on offense. When Cousins picked up his fourth foul late in the third quarter, the team fell apart defensively and a double digit lead evaporated into a Blazers lead. Cousins came back in, and the team once again locked down admirably. His +28 on the night is not an accident.
- Battle of the lottery pick SGs today goes decidedly to McLemore. Still hasn't shot the ball well, but Ben competed defensively and moved the ball efficiently. The only jumper he hit was perhaps the most difficult shot he's taken this year. Stauskas struggled mightily with his shot tonight, but showed promise in his ability to get off good shots. Those shots will start going down sooner rather than later.
- Sleep Train looked sparse on TV, but I’d chalk it up to it being Halloween. The good soldiers in the arena were as loud as can be which is great to see.