That was a basketball game, folks. Bear with me, it’s 12:33 AM local time here in Boston, and we just witnessed one of the most illogical, silly basketball games in recent memory. I only hope that I can do what was those 48 minutes justice.
I didn’t have high hopes heading into tonight’s game. The Kings are notoriously poor perimeter defenders, which is particularly alarming when James Harden and the Houston Rockets are the opposition. Of course, Rajon Rondo was suspended for tonight’s game, so the Kings were going to be without one of their top players, and everyone had botched the initial response to that suspension that it had sort of turned into a much bigger ‘thing’ than it needed to be. That isn’t to say that what Rondo did didn’t deserve a big reaction, because it did, but the Kings’ inability to respond to that issue in a satisfying manner created a really toxic narrative that I assumed would be a distraction against Houston. I can’t say that that was really an issue tonight.
This game was so bizarre that I hardly noticed Rondo’s absence. It certainly helps that Darren Collison played extremely well in his place, and behind strong performances from Collison, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Omri Casspi, and just about everyone else George Karl played tonight, the Kings were able to defeat the Houston Rockets in Sacramento, 107-97, improving their record to 10-15 on the season. Cousins led the way with 26 points, and Casspi and Rudy chipped in with 19 and 17 points respectively. James Harden led the way for Houston with a game-high 33 points.
It’s hard to say that nearly everyone Karl played tonight performed adequately while also being very disappointed by some aspects of the Kings’ overall game tonight, but that is the best way I can describe it. Individually, everyone found a way to contribute, but team defense at times as well as the offense's inability to protect the basketball almost cost the Kings this game.
You can throw little caveats at a lot of these guys tonight. Collison was really steady throughout, but he turned the ball over 8 times. DeMarcus Cousins dominated the Dwight Howard matchup, but came very close to earning his second technical and an ejection on multiple occasions. This game could have been a disaster. It wasn’t, and the Kings deserve some credit for that, but it wasn’t pretty, even though the Kings held a steady lead for a lot of it.
That’s just the basketball stuff. This game had so much more going for it than that.
Cousins and Howard were physical with each other right from the jump. Cousins was nailed with an extremely weak early technical for doing a little hand fighting with Howard. Those opening moments set the tone for what turned into a really chippy, ugly, whistle heavy basketball game. Everything hit a truly bizarre peak in the third quarter when Jason Terry sort of ran into / tried to gain his balance with DeMarcus Cousins’ manager, Andrew Rodgers.
Fan and Terry had a moment https://t.co/jmgBQhGIz8— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) December 16, 2015
Rodgers was actually escorted out of his seat for making physical contact with a player, Cousins came running to his defense, and it was awesome. I mean, it was extremely silly, don’t get me wrong, but this was a good example of why peak Sacramento Kings basketball of this era cannot be matched from an entertainment standpoint. You cannot make this stuff up.
I forgot to mention that Drake was in attendance, sitting right next to Vivek Ranadive, which is kind of becoming the norm around these parts. What a time to be alive.
A few plays after Cousins’ manager was ejected, the person sitting next to Cousins’ manager was also escorted out. I have no idea why, but the officials were deservedly boo’d for it. Kings basketball, baby.
Did I mention Drake was in attendance?
Oh, and then to top everything off, Rudy Gay viciously demolished Patrick Beverly to send this game completely off the rails, much like this recap you are reading right now. Enjoy.
Kings' Rudy Gay posterizes Rockets' Patrick Beverley pic.twitter.com/xEl7k2yS6U— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) December 16, 2015
The Kings will now head out on a four-game road trip, starting in Minnesota on Friday.
For the opponent's perspective, visit The Dream Shake.
Note time -
- Darren Collison really channeled his inner Rajon Rondo tonight. He was extremely passive with his shot in the first half, found his open teammates, and even hit the glass. Those 8 turnovers were also unfortunately Rondo-esque, but this was an excellent reminder of how good Collison can be, and how fortunate the Kings are to have him locked up on that contract.
- The Rockets looked really bad for a lot of this game. I don't want to be entirely pessimistic and say that Houston lost this game more than the Kings won it, because that isn't fair, either, but that team has some issues.
- Houston actually got away with playing Trevor Ariza at center for way longer than Trevor Ariza should be allowed to play center. He was tasked with defending DeMarcus Cousins inside, which is infinitely easier when the Kings cannot get the ball to DeMarcus Cousins inside. Watching the Kings either ignore Cousins down there, or fail to get him the ball, was extremely frustrating. If the Kings missed Rondo anywhere tonight, it was probably during that stretch.
- Seth Curry returned to the rotation with Rondo serving his one game suspension. He was fine offensively, and while I keep having to remind myself that he probably isn't a great defender, he continues to defend with a lot of smarts, purpose, and energy, which is a lot more than I can say about a lot of the Kings' other perimeter defenders. I like what we've seen out of Seth this season.
- How the Kings defeated the Houston Rockets by 10 points while turning the ball over 29 times, I'll never know. This goes without saying, but the Kings cannot continue to be this careless with the basketball. According to the NBA, this is the first time since 2004 that a team has turned the ball over this many times and won.