Let's be clear: the ten men who dressed in Cleveland Cavaliers uniforms to play tonight are not a good team. Ever since Anderson Verejao went down with an injury, they have gone 2-8, including a loss to leaguewide joke Philadelphia 76ers. Still, with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving suiting up, the team has the potential to pack some punch. So it was pretty satisfying to watch the Sacramento Kings lay the smackdown down at home by a score of 103-84.
The Kings were led by another stat-stuffing effort by DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins notched 26 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. One thing to note, however, is that Boogie failed to shoot 50% from the field again, only going 11/23 from the field. Rudy Gay also had a strong afternoon guarded by J.R. Smith for most of the night, tallying 23 points on only 14 shots. Gay was able to get easy looks in post-up moves because the Cavaliers weren't terribly interested in bringing hard defensive pressure. Darren Collison also racked up 16 points and 6 assists while playing stellar defense against Kyrie Irving for most of the night. Irving got scorching hot from deep in the first quarter, burying four threes, but afterwards was quiet for most of the night. The Kings' offense hummed all night; the team shot 48% from the field and had 20 assists to only 4 turnovers.
Tyrone Corbin made sure that the rotations included a healthy mix of both starters and bench players, which helped against Cleveland's depleted roster. In what is probably a season high, Cousins played 21 first-half minutes, including the entire second quarter with a healthy amount of time surrounded by bench players. Boogie's presence really helps because he adds a defensive presence while also being a focal point the offense can run through. Carl Landry was a big beneficary tonight; with the defensive attention on Cousins, Landry got loose for 11 points on only 7 shots, scoring around the rim and hitting his fairly consistent midrange shot.
The two buzzwords in the Kingdom these days have been pace and defense, and tonight there seemed to be a healthy dose of both. Cleveland shot 42% from the field, and while Irving and Kevin Love got their points, neither was too efficient on the night. Things started out shaky as Cleveland scored 29 points in the first quarter, but got much better as the game progressed, mostly because Irving cooled off significantly. Its unclear if this is signifying a return of some good defense or if it was a bad opponent just flat out being bad. The Cavaliers looked lifeless for most of the night, letting the Kings get whatever they wanted offensively while running an uninspiring offense themselves.
Regardless, the Kings now improve to 5-8 in the Tyrone Corbin era. Since the new year, they stand at 3-2, slowly inching their way back to the .500 line. The offense is certainly looking much better overall of late, but the defense has been on and off. Next up on the slate is a Rajon Rondo-powered Dallas Mavericks team on Tuesday, which will present interesting challenges for the Kings defensively.
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