Just how do you talk about this game?
Do we talk about how BOTH Rondo and Cousins being saddled with three fouls in the first quarter?
Or maybe how, in spite of that, the Kings somehow took a lead going into the second period?
Do we mention how Steph Curry hadn't scored a single point until 3 minutes left in the first half? Or do we focus on how Curry went nuclear for 17 points after that point before the teams even regrouped in the locker room?
Or how about Omri Frickin Casspi burning Oracle Arena to the ground with as good a shooting display a King has ever had, going toe-to-toe with the greatest shooter of all time and coming out of the firestorm with his team LEADING at the break?
Keep in mind that NONE of the above is the story of the game. Any of the above would suffice to make any night a bizarre one in retrospect.
But not this night. Because the story of the game, of course, is the DeMarcus Cousins temperamental eruption in the third quarter. Boogie was called for a foul for being too handsy with Curry, which happened to be his fifth. Unfortunately, Cousins completely lost his mind, getting himself ejected from the game.
That doesn't fully capture how ugly the incident was. At this point when Boogie is on a tantrum, he's basically a walking human Chernobyl disaster and anyone daring to come near better have their hazmat suits on. First Rondo, then Rudy Gay, then Corliss Williamson tried to restrain the big guy from the referees. Boogie roughly shouldered his way through George Karl on his way to the bench and the tunnel. After the game, Cousins didn't speak with the media, but Sean Cunningham did capture the conversation he had with Vlade Divac on camera.
Keep in mind, at this point the Kings were WINNING the game. I could talk about X's and O's, but tonight was mostly about emotion. The Warriors took this moment to pounce on the Kings with a 15-0 run that basically ended any semblance of competition for the night. The Kings visibly sagged in energy after the explosion; the offense, still flawed as it is, never reached the same level of urgency and sharpness. The defense stopped chasing so hard both in the halfcourt and in transition. There were plenty of Kings who stringed together some impressive effort (shoutout to Quincy Acy and Seth Curry), but in the first half it was all in the main thrust of taking the fight to the Warriors. In the second half it was about morale victories and finding bright spots in a dark hole.
This game is the ultimate microcosm of this year's Sacramento Kings. Everybody knew about their wildcard talent. They gave hell to the best team in basketball on their turf in the first half by carpet bombing them so hard it took a vintage Steph Curry, I'm-The-Best-Shooter-Ever explosion to keep their team within striking distance. Everyone knows that side of the Kings. But everyone knows the flipside of the coin too. They're unstable. You can take them out of a game emotionally. The next meltdown is just around the corner. And tonight, again, its the headline for this story.
I fully realize that the Kings probably would have lost the game anyways, even had Boogie stayed in the game. But damn, was it such a terrible thing to find out on their own? It isn't just the L that they racked up in the standings that hurts, its the way they lost that's so emotionally draining. In the grand scheme of things this was just another loss that the Kings were supposed to lose. But if a DeMarcus Cousins-led team ever wants to take that next step into playoff contention, this game is as good as any for the talented big man to take a long hard look at and reflect on.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Golden State of Mind