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Kings 100, Pistons 94: Defense fuels big comeback

The Kings fell down big again, but ground out a win

The Sacramento Kings are no stranger to huge deficits. This time, it was one of the shooting dregs of the league in the Detroit Pistons lighting them up. Thankfully, the law of averages caught up to the Pistons, and the Kings put on the clamps in the second half to polish off a badly needed 100-94 win at home.

The Kings were led by DeMarcus Cousins, who broke out of a three game slump by re-discovering his jumper. Cousins scored an efficient 24 points (8/14 FG, 4/5 3P, 4/7 FT), grabbed 13 rebounds, and dished 6 assists to only 3 turnovers. It was a welcome return for the efficient Boogie we’ve seen for most of this season. The second star tonight was Paul Millsap Anthony Tolliver, who showed off that his game isn’t just limited to shooting the three. Tolliver scored 17 points (3/7 from 3P), but was impressive attacking closeouts off the dribble and even flashing some passing ability.

The game kicked off with a dominant first quarter from Cousins, who scored nearly everything he threw up and dictated the game beautifully from the high post. Unfortunately, Cousins’ efforts were neutralized by the scorching hot shooting of the Pistons, in particular Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6/8 3P) and Reggie Jackson (3/5 3P). Cousins did get into early foul trouble, and when he sat down things started to fall apart. Rudy Gay struggled mightily to do anything without the ball just slipping out of his hands time and time again, ending the game with seven turnovers compared to only 11 points (3/11 FG). Even Cousins’ return couldn’t halt the momentum, as the Kings’ deficit reached 18 points at its height in the third quarter.

Then, the Kings started to get some momentum going. The Pistons started missing threes, and the Kings continued to hit their own, especially from Garrett Temple and Tolliver. Ty Lawson, although having a bad night by the boxscore, started to force the issue getting to the free throw line and peppering in a couple jumpers. Kosta Koufos was fantastic off the bench, shutting down the Pistons’ tough pick-and-roll attack that features Jackson and Andre Drummond, and finally got his little flip shots to go into the basket. The Kings chipped away and by the time Cousins checked back into the game, they were down six.

The Kings kept chipping away and tied up the game with two minutes remaining at 89. Given the Kings’ troubles trying to finish games by executing late, it was a coin flip deciding which team would show up: the one from the four-game winning streak, or the one from November. Thankfully it was the former; the Kings clamped down, Cousins hit two enormous threes and Temple added his own, and the Kings limited the Pistons to only five points the rest of the way.

The Kings now remain neck-and-neck with the Blazers for the eighth seed. It was a positive win because the Blazers recently just lost to these same Pistons. The Kings are now facing down a tough three game stretch that features the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Oklahoma City Thunder before heading out on that monster road trip. Onto the observations:

  • The Pistons were giving Lawson and Darren Collison all kinds of space to take jumpers coming off screens, and neither made the Pistons pay. That being said, I thought Lawson was a big part of the comeback just by being a pest getting into the paint time and time again. He got smushed by Drummond a handful of times, but caused breakdowns in the defense, and racked up a few hockey assists if not traditional ones.
  • Omri Casspi helped out by filling in the gaps admirably. He has typically been a good rebounder, and tonight was one of his top efforts with 10 in 17 minutes. He also greased the offense with smart passes and defense, without all of that high-risk junk that Matt Barnes tends to toss out.
  • There was some chatter on Twitter about an argument between Cousins and Collison, and here’s the video. They were seen sitting next to eachother on the bench a few seconds later so perhaps it was nothing.
  • Another DNP-CD for Willie Cauley-Stein. With Koufos headed to the bench, the Kings just don’t need him in the rotation. This was probably the best overall game from the Kings’ bigman rotation. Tolliver as a starter really rounds it out nicely. Joerger actually had a bit of a dilemma deciding between Koufos and Tolliver to finish the game, both were playing so well.

For the opponent’s perspective, visit Detroit Bad Boys