Better late than never? The Sacramento Kings spent the last five games losing in every way imaginable, from blowouts to blown leads to blown calls. They finally broke through tonight against the Detroit Pistons, who themselves are riding a bit of a roller coaster season and searching for consistency.
The Kings were led by DeMarcus Cousins’ 22 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists, but he had a down game tonight going 8/21 FG, 45.1 TS%, and notching 6 turnovers. The Kings’ best player tonight was Ty Lawson, scoring 19 points (7/11 FG, 1/2 3P, 4/4 FT) and dishing 6 assists with no turnovers in only 22 minutes. Lawson’s jumper, inconsistent this season, was locked in and he was living in the paint. Willie Cauley-Stein was the other star for the Kings off the bench, looking spry and active with 12 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes. Cauley-Stein also defended much more intelligently than he has; he avoided picking up any fouls while also protecting the rim.
The game started with the Pistons firing on all cylinders (sorry) and building up an early lead with 38 first quarter points. Jon Leuer channeled his inner Dirk, going nuclear for 15 points in the quarter on 6/6 shooting. It was a good thing the Kings were getting great shots and scoring the other way too to keep in striking distance, because Detroit’s shooting felt flukey.
Turns out it was unsustainable; Leuer when 0/5 for the rest of the game, and the Pistons only scored 68 points the rest of the game. The Kings, sparked in the second quarter by Lawson and Cauley-Stein, grabbed the lead and never looked back. The lead hovered between 5-11 points the rest of the game. The Pistons mounted one last challenge late in the fourth, cutting the lead to 4 points at 105-101 with a minute remaining. But Cousins sealed the game with a stepback jumper on the next possession to push the lead to six, and a missed three the other way was the end of it.
The Kings now stand at 17-27 on the season. For playoff watchers, that is 1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth seed in the West. For pick watchers, the Kings are in a virtual tie with Orlando for 9th place in the league, ahead only by a hair by percentage spots; rise one more spot and the pick goes to Chicago.
Onto the observations!
- The #FREEMALACHI movement is gaining steam. It appears that Richardson has leapfrogged Ben McLemore in the rotation, as Malachi has gotten minutes in the second and fourth quarters in McLemore’s customary spot. Overall, Malachi looked much like he did in the D-League: scores as easily as he breathes while making a ton of defensive mistakes. His most impressive drive was a take from the left corner where he converted an athletic finish around Andre Drummond. He did get beat backdoor quite a bit, both by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Bullock.
- Speaking of Drummond, its his fifth year in the league and I’m shocked he’s still so raw. He’s a fantastic rebounder but makes a ton of mistakes defensively. He also should be finishing much stronger in the paint than he does.
- Am I the only one who likes Arron Afflalo at small forward? Yeah he’s undersized, but his lack of footspeed isn’t so badly exposed against bigger wings like Marcus Morris, who he fought tooth and nail with on defense. He got great shots today that he wasn’t hitting, and didn’t force too much. That being said, next up on the docket for Afflalo is a young kid with potential named LeBron James. Maybe you’ve heard of him.
- Darren Collison had an efficient night scoring the ball but looked like a lifeless zombie at times on the court. Threw some really lazy passes for three turnovers. If I’m Joerger I’d give Lawson the bulk of the minutes at PG, the rest of those minutes to Collison, and play the two together when Cousins is off the court.
- A mysterious plume of smoke eerily floated its way to the court in the middle of the game, annoying Dave Joerger and the Kings bench. My guess its the ghost of Ron Artest still haunting the Palace. Good thing the Pistons are moving to a new venue.
For the opponent’s perspective, visit Detroit Bad Boys