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Kings 112, Mavericks 98: Second-half defense secures win

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

After a first half that lacked offensive consistency and defensive effort, the Kings managed 24 minutes of excellent end-to-end basketball that netted a 112-98 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.

DeMarcus Cousins returned from his three game absence to lead the Kings with 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists, Rudy Gay added 20 points and seven rebounds, and Rajon Rondo had 21 points and six assists against his former team as the Kings improved to 7-12 on the season. Chandler Parsons led the Mavericks with 14 points, while Dirk Nowitzki added 13 on 5-15 shooting.

Sacramento trailed for most of the contest until a 12-4 run to begin the third gave the Kings a 65-62 lead that they never relinquished. In the final 24 minutes of the contest, Sacramento outscored the Mavericks 58-40 and held Dallas to 34.8% shooting while only committing two turnovers.

Sacramento's seasonal defensive woes continued in the first half through a combination of inability and sheer unwillingness to stop Dallas from attacking the basket. The biggest culprits—Rondo, Collison, and Gay—continued to put all the defensive pressure onto Cousins and Kosta Koufos as their counterparts drove by them with consistent ease. The Mavericks continued to attack this weakness, and it turned into a number of open, corner threes as the Kings defense collapsed in reaction to the penetration.

In the second half, however, Sacramento turned the game around defensively; Dallas had an inordinate number of missed open/semi-open shots, but the Kings—Rondo, Collison, and Gay included—were also visibly more invested and successful in sealing off the penetration and closing out on open shots. The Mavericks managed just 13 points on 5-22 shooting in the quarter, and never recovered.

The Kings have three days off before a ‘home' matchup against the Boston Celtics in Mexico City, before a weekend back-to-back with the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

For the rival's perspective, check out Mavs Moneyball.

Game Notes:

  • Rondo was visually amped to play his former team, and got off to a hot start, scoring eight of his 14 points in the first quarter that included a long two-pointer and two threes. Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle opted to foul Rondo repeatedly near the end of quarters, and while it was somewhat successful (Rondo was 7-14 from the line), he knocked down some late free throws and Carlisle had to abandon the approach.
  • George Karl called on Seth Curry early in the second quarter, and Curry produced—he had eight points on 2-3 shooting, and had one of the biggest moments of the game when he drew a charge against Parsons (Ziller bucks to 10KingsFan10 for helping me remember who that was against). Curry certainly made his case for more playing time tonight.
  • As Curry earned more minutes, Ben McLemore saw more time on the bench. McLemore had four points and two rebounds on 2-6 shooting, and while he was the lone guard who seemed consistently dialed in (at least effort wise) on defense, Karl sat him for most of the second half as Curry and Collison got the off-guard minutes.
  • Speaking of minutes watch, Willie Cauley-Stein played only 12 minutes. Kufous had 12 minutes as well, as Karl opted for multiple small-ball lineups, but again there was little visible reason for Cauley-Stein to play so few minutes.