So there was a championship contender playing tonight in Sacramento. That team is not the Sacramento Kings. The Cleveland Cavaliers flexed their muscle, building a huge early lead, and lazily coasted their way to victory.
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with a marvelous game, scoring 26 points on 16 shots alongside 11 assists and 8 rebounds. Cousins manned both the high and low post, picking out shooters and cutters all over the court when the double team came. Rudy Gay and Ty Lawson came alive in the second half to boost the Kings, scoring 23 and 17 points respectively.
Unfortunately for the Kings, the first quarter proved to be the most critical juncture of the game. The Cavaliers raced out to 32 first quarter points, shooting and scoring merrily as they are prone to do, behind a strong early performance from Kevin Love. But the key to the deficit was that the Kings were both ice cold from the field while also inventing new ways to turn the ball over. Cousins picked up two early fouls and had to sit from the four minute mark. The Kings shot 26% from the field in the first quarter and had 9 turnovers, leading to a miserable 15 point first quarter.
From that point on, it was a game of catch-up. The Kings did manage to take better care of the ball, coughing it up 12 times over the last three quarters and only 7 times in the second half. They also shot the ball much better, 65% from the field and 55% from three in the second half. The Cavs just kept plowing onwards. LeBron James showed off his tremendous passing skills by hitting his wealth of weaponry like Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver (4 threes each) again and again. And especially when the Cavs go small with Channing Frye (2/5 from three) at the center spot, there’s just no way to guard them unless you’re perfect. Which the Kings are not. The Kings cut the lead to single digits several times, but a few bombs would frequently push the lead back out to 15-19 points.
Ultimately, its hard to get too upset about this loss. The Cavs are operating on a different plane right now. With the Blazers dropping a game to the Magic, the Kings still remain a half game behind for the eighth seed in the West. And don’t look now, but the Pelicans (6-4 in their last ten) and the Timberwolves (5-5) are charging hard behind.
- Ty Lawson continues to outplay Darren Collison at point guard. Lawson had some issues turning the ball over early, but stabilized and put enormous pressure on the defense as a scorer. Its that scoring ability that’s key; Collison often doesn’t punish defenses for giving him space to get his shot off. He’s a better shooter and solid attacking closeouts by pump-faking, but he looks uncomfortable with the ball in his hands when asked to make a play. Lawson, on the other hand, looks completely natural, which isn’t surprising since he’s had success as the engine to an offense in the past.
- Anthony Tolliver is either lava-hot shooting the ball or completely cold. It was the latter today, and he wasn’t much of a deterrent to his old Wolves teammate Kevin Love either.
- Arron Afflalo had this hilarious defensive sequence where he pouted mid-possession about a screen Channing Frye set, and took his frustration out on poor DeAndre Liggins by plowing right through his screen.
- Matt Barnes: 18 minutes, Omri Casspi: 6. Joerger even talked postgame about how he wish Barnes got more minutes. NO NO NO NOOOO.
- I have to reiterate that its amazing how many shooters the Cavs have on their team. And they add Kyle Freaking Korver? There was a play where Cousins switched off to Korver off a screen, and Afflalo was a fraction of a second late to re-switch. Not good enough, it was enough space for Korver to nail a three. You have to be perfect to guard this team.
For the opponent’s perspective, visit Fear The Sword