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Kings 103, Jazz 101: Gay's heroics lift the Kings past the Jazz

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Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never easy.

You could probably use that quote at the beginning of any Kings win game recap, but it certainly applies tonight.

The Kings defeated the Utah Jazz 103-101 in Utah on the second night of a back-to-back thanks to some late-game heroics from a struggling Rudy Gay. Gay put the team on his back in crunch time (scored the Kings’ last 6 points), for lack of a better way to phrase it, (you SHOULD argue that the game shouldn’t have been on his back, anyway, but I digress) and Rudy delivered. He needed this. The Kings needed this.

Outside of first half of the first quarter and the second half of the fourth quarter, I do not recommend watching this game if you happened to miss it live. It was horribly played, overly officiated, and completely boring.

Willie Cauley-Stein started tonight over Quincy Acy, and the Kings got off to a really hot start defensively, and those solid defensive possessions led to quick offensive scores. That has been the formula for this team all season. They struggle in the half court, so if the defense is poor and open transition opportunities do not present themselves, the Kings are probably going to lose. If they defend at a passable level, their transition offense alone can propel them to wins against average-to-poor basketball teams.

As previously mentioned, the meat of this game was hard to watch. No flow, no energy, just nothing to positive to report. There were free throws. Lots and lots of free throws.

That slow, lethargic pace allowed the Jazz to creep back in ever so slightly as the Kings tried to keep the lead they built up in the first quarter. To the Kings’ credit, they often answered every Jazz push with a big shot that brought the lead back out of reach. Darren Collison, DeMarcus Cousins, and Rudy Gay all had threes that accomplished exactly that.

Things got uncomfortable in the fourth quarter. The Kings gave up a few easier-than-acceptable threes. Omri Casspi got nailed with a technical after giving up a potential three-point-play. Gordon Hayward (who had been struggling all night) made a ridiculous and-one circus shot over Cauley-Stein, etc. You’ve seen this play before.

The Kings completely botched key late game defensive possessions, none bigger than a Joe Ingles three that tied the game with just seconds remaining on the clock. I can’t tell you what should have happened on that particular play but It looked like Cauley-Stein got caught on a screen and/or trying to cover two guys and was late to contest Ingles’ three.

At that point, I was expecting overtime and an inevitable Kings loss, but Rudy Gay nailed a tough mid-range jumper with just enough time on the clock for a full-court Jazz heave that miraculously missed. Kings win.

I’d consider the Jazz about average, possibly above average if healthy (Derrick Favors didn’t play tonight, Dante Exum and Alec Burks have been out for a while). Despite their injuries, defeating this team on their home floor on the second night of a back-to-back with playoff implications is a good, important win. Considering the nature of how this game played out, another loss of this kind could have been disastrous to the Kings’ locker room and morale.

(The Kings are just one game out of the eighth seed, but I’m not sure if we’re supposed to talk about that. If you put something in parenthesis it doesn’t count, I think.)

Notes -

  • DeMarcus Cousins was awesome. I neglected to mention that above. It felt like a quiet 36 points and 17 rebounds, as utterly ridiculous as that sounds.
  • Rajon Rondo's defense tonight was as poor as I've seen it all season. Grant and Jerry talked about how he has to ice his back and/or lay down every time he's not in the game. I'm not going to make excuses, but if you were into that sort of thing, look no further than the back problem.
  • I'd like to give a short round of applause to George Karl for playing Willie Cauley-Stein 24 minutes tonight (and crunch time minutes, no less!). I could nitpick where I'd like a few more of those minutes to take place, but I was happy to see the bump up in playing time. He made a few crucial plays, by the way.
  • Trey Lyles was as impressive as any rookie I've seen this season. I thought Cauley-Stein was good, but Lyles wasn't an easy cover, and forced Willie into some poor defensive positions.
  • I'll openly admit that Rudy Gobert scared me coming into this one. Cousins has tried to take players like Gobert out on the perimeter if they show some resistance at the rim, and if you're defending Cousins that is exactly where you want him. Gobert was a non-factor, thankfully, and I'll attribute that to all the time he's missed this season.