A win is a win. The Sacramento Kings certainly didn’t play a game that deserves to go in the scrapbook, but they found a way to get the job done late. The team overcame an incredibly poor shooting night (7/25 from three) while also racking up some truly head-scratching offensive mistakes (19 turnovers), letting a young Sixers team hang around all night before somehow snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
The Kings were led by DeMarcus Cousins, who scored an efficient 30 points (10/20 FG, 2/4 3P, 8/9 FT), grabbing 7 rebounds, and dishing 5 assists. Cousins seemed to relish his matchup with the Sixers’ super talented big man Joel Embiid, as there was plenty of friendly jawing and dapping back and forth. There was some unfortunate slop mixed in, as Boogie did lead the team with 5 turnovers. Rudy Gay returned from a long layover and looked rusty for most of the night, but did end up chipping in 17 points of his own.
The Kings started the game on a quick 13-2 start as the Sixers couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. However, once Ersan Ilyasova checked in for Joel Okafor, the entire tenor of the game changed. It gave Embiid (25 points on 8/17 FG, 8/9 FT) the space he needed to really go to work on the Kings in the paint. The Sixers mounted a quick comeback, and the game was a virtual see-saw. The Sixers then managed to ride an impressive burst from rookie Dario Saric in the 3rd Quarter, where he scored all 12 of his points. Saric was terrific, nailing threes and taking poor Anthony Tolliver into the post and bruising right through him time after time.
The fourth quarter came, and once again it was the Kings’ reserves stepping up. Gay had struggled until this point, but he got a run next to Ty Lawson, Garrett Temple, Tolliver, and Kosta Koufos, and found his rhythm. The Kings erased an eight point Sixers lead thanks to Gay coming alive and Lawson chipping in points by getting into the paint. The teams went back and forth again, until finally the Kings found their three point stroke. Temple hit his first three to give the Kings a one point lead, and Cousins hit one on the next possession to give the Kings the lead for good.
Ultimately, it was a win, and they don’t count ugly wins any different than dominant ones. The Kings will have to play much better to beat better teams, of which several will be coming into town in the next few weeks. The Kings stand at 14-17, gaining a game on the Trailblazers, who lost tonight, for the eighth seed. The Nuggets beat the Clippers and remain hot on the Kings’ heel at 13-18.
- Willie Cauley-Stein came off the bench and made some soaring athletic plays on offense. He even rebounded well per minute. But his defense is still hit or miss; he can’t seem to defend without fouling. And his hands cost him time and time again, as tonight we saw Sergio Rodriguez straight rip the ball out of his hands in the backcourt for a live ball turnover.
- Lawson continues his resurgence given free reign to make plays off the dribble and in pick-and-roll for the second unit. It also helps immensely that he plays four-out with Tolliver as the PF, and has a nice lob target in Cauley-Stein. In my opinion, Lawson outplayed Darren Collison again at point guard because he gives the Kings a big creative spark at the guard spot they really lack with Collison. Without that creativity, the Kings are often forced into isolation situations for Cousins and Gay against dwindling shot clocks. Joerger went to Collison late instead of Lawson, which I felt was a mistake. They did get the win so hard to criticize too much.
- We got reckless Matt Barnes tonight. One of his assists really should have been a turnover, as I’m still wondering how it got through the defense to Cousins. He also tried one of the stupidest maneuvers I can remember, trying to bounce it off a Sixer’s back when he was out of bounds to avoid inbounding it to a teammate. It went extremely badly, and might as well have wasted the timeout.
- Joerger went 11 deep in tonight’s game, which is about much further into the bench as a coach will go in a tight game. Somehow, Omri Casspi was still able to get minutes, and was at the very least energetic, even if he did get erased at the rim by Embiid a couple times.
- I have no idea how Ben McLemore can be so dang athletic and so uncoordinated at the same time. He tripped over a ref at one point (and the refs somehow gifted the Kings the ball) but also bobbled passes, fell down trying to get around screens, and just couldn’t snag loose balls.
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