They say the NBA is a league of stars. Well, the Kings certainly had their fair share of star power tonight. With a merry band of roleplayers chipping in with key contributions, that star power was enough to beat a quality Indiana Pacers team that had their own star Paul George clicking and torching the Kings.
The story of this game starts and ends with DeMarcus Cousins. This January has been by far the best month of his career, and tonight's performance is its crown jewel. The Pacers were missing Ian Mahinmi tonight, leaving their big man depth sorely lacking. Big problem, because Boogie channelled the spirit of Chris Webber against the Pacers tonight. Cousins was absolutely dominant in every facet of the game; inside, outside, in the post, off the dribble, rebounding, defense... Boogie was all over the court. He dropped 48 massive points on a scorching .635 TS%. He was 17/29 from the field, 1/2 from three, and 13/20 from the free throw line. The numbers don't fully encapsulate the carnage. Bodies were flying, grown men were crying, and Sleep Train Arena burned down in the inferno.
Rajon Rondo also had a strong game in support of the beast in the middle. He dropped another triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but this one was of a different character than the last. Rondo was efficient tonight, hitting 50% of his field goals and 7 of his 8 free throws while only coughing the ball up once. It was a complete floor general game from Rondo; Boogie got to eat his due, but it never felt like the rest of the team was frozen out.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Kings' cast contributed in little ways to support. Willie Cauley-Stein had another terrific game defensively and on the glass, swatting shots and grabbing 12 rebounds of his own. Omri Casspi didn't hit any threes, but made timely cuts and filled in the gaps on the offense efficiently regardless. Darren Collison kept the Pacers at bay in the fourth quarter by scoring key baskets in transitions.
On the other side of the court, it was a brave effort from the Pacers in the face of the Boogie nuclear holocaust on the second night of a back-to-back after facing the Warriors the night before. The Kings had absolutely no answer for Paul George, who burned the Kings with 34 points of his own. He single-handedly kept the Pacers in the game in the fourth. Monta Ellis was hyper efficient from the field to score 16 points, mostly beating the Kings' soft defense against midrange shots. Jordan Hill and Myles Turner both chipped in offensively in the paint with some impressive takes to the rim.
But in the end, DeMarcus Cousins just would not be denied. Boogie scored 15 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Pacers at bay, getting into the paint over and over, scoring from the post over and over, and frankly just broke the Pacers' spirit. It was a special performance to put an exclamation point on the "New Year, New Boogie" theme thus far. Onto the observations:
- The Kings got another mediocre night from their duo of shooting guards. McLemore was fairly aggressive, but to no avail. Its another inefficient shooting night for the kid, and his percentages for the year are dropping fast. Meanwhile, Marco Belinelli continues to shoot complete blanks. He even blew an open layup to end the first half. The Kings must change his role off the bench because investing so many possessions into Belinelli shooting off screens is sapping the reserves of production.
- George Karl went to James Anderson out of sheer desperation for some competent wing play, and... well, he was there. He did knock down a three, but also had an awful turnover. He played alright defense, but it seemed like the Pacers forgot to go to George down the stretch as much as they should have; George did blow a layup against Anderson, but Anderson fouled George shooting a three to keep the Pacers on life support.
- Still can't say enough about Willie Cauley-Stein. He just fills in beautifully next to some high-volume offensive options, supplying terrific defense and energy. He even almost ran a successful fast break by himself. Almost.
- Pretty mediocre game from Kosta Koufos. He played decent defense, but he blew several point blank attempts around the rim. Its been a down stretch from Kosta when it comes to that little half-hook in the lane, but I'm sure he'll bounce back. He's been an absolute rock off the bench this season.
- Not giving up that eighth spot without a fight! Plus, only a game behind Houston in the loss column for 7th!