Lets get it all out of the way first: this was not the Cleveland Cavaliers’ finest hour. The Cavs were already slumping coming into the game, having lost six of their last eight. They missed 17 free throws. They coughed up the ball 18 times. And their defense was horrid, making mistake after mistake and giving up good, open shots.
That being said, when was the last time the Sacramento Kings took advantage of a team that good having a poor night? Without researching exactly, I think back to that 2013 game against Lebron James’ Miami Heat at home. The Cavaliers played awful, but the Kings had to play well enough to be in a position to take advantage, and that certainly is not a given every night.
As usual, for the Kings it starts with DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie had an awful night shooting the ball (28 points on 11/30 FG, 0/5 3P, 6/9 FT) but it was his passing (9 assists to 2 turnovers) that made him invaluable. The entire team was locked in offensively, and a lot of came from playing off of Boogie. Cousins orchestrated the offense out of the post magnificently, finding cutters and shooters as the defense doubled and collapsed on him. Darren Collison poured in 23 points (8/15 FG, 3/5 3P) in his best game of the season. Collison finally started taking advantage of the space defenses had been giving him and aggressively looked for his shot. Arron Afflalo bombed away from the perimeter (14 points, 4/6 3P), including the critical go-ahead three late in overtime.
The Cavs got 20+ from each of their superstars, as James (24 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists) notched a triple double. But the 17/34 shooting from the free throw line was brutal.
The Kings jumped out to a 10-0 start early in the game, flipping the usual script of falling behind early. But the Cavs answered quickly as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love got their game going. The Kings bench was huge, outscoring their Cleveland counterparts 35-25 overall, and giving the Kings a 53-47 lead at halftime. Malachi Richardson showed how explosive of a scorer he can be, effortlessly dropping in 9 of his 12 points in the first half, and scoring in all kinds of smooth looking ways.
However, the Cavs established themselves in the third quarter, retaking the lead going into the fourth. The Cavs rode this momentum into a 10 point lead before the Kings starters checked back in, and it looked to be a tall task. But something amazing happened; Dave Joerger stuck with Willie Cauley-Stein down the stretch of the fourth quarter, and the sophomore big man made big play after big play to help the Kings climb back into the game. He blocked shots, grabbed rebounds, and avoided the fouls that have plagued his defense this season. Cousins took over the game down the stretch, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter, including the clutch tying drive and stripping Love of the ball to finish regulation.
Overtime was just as thrilling as the fourth. After the Kings fell down five at 111-106 with two minutes remaining, they held the Cavs to only one point the rest of the way. Cousins continued to churn out offense, Garrett Temple made a miraculous diving steal and save which led to a Collison fastbreak layup, and Afflalo hit the gamewinning three pointer after Cousins found him open on the wing.
Ok, take a deep breath. This was a terrific team win because there were so many contributions up and down the roster. The Kings are now 2-2 on their monster eight game road trip, with the next four games coming up in back to back situations, starting with Indiana on Friday.
- Have yourself a week, Willie! Coming on the heels of his best game of the season in Detroit, Cauley-Stein rode the momentum into a huge night with 8 points and 10 rebounds. He blocked LeBron at the rim, he made Korver arc his threes higher than he wanted, and he even finished with authority at the rim! There were a couple of bunnies he missed that he really should have dunked but this was a big step forward.
- The other kid, Malachi. Wow. Just oozing with potential. Scored nearly a point a minute and looked utterly bored doing it. Pullup threes, slithering into the paint, getting to the free throw line. He’s the whole scoring package. Really excited for his potential.
- The Ty Lawson/Darren Collison see-saw swung the other way today. This was the Collison we want to see; aggressive, confident, playing instinctively and taking the shots the defense gives him. He won’t shoot like today every game but he needs to put the defense on its heels by attacking like this every night.
- The only King with a bad game today was Anthony Tolliver. When he’s not hitting his threes he doesn’t give the team anything. He didn’t rebound, and James freaking Jones, who is nearly 60 by conservative estimates, was beating him off the ball for cuts and threes.
- All kinds of wackiness was happening tonight. The ref threw a jump ball up at nearly a 45 degree angle towards the Cavs side. We got a Boogie wedgie three. Jerry Reynolds shouted out Sactown Royalty on air. All-in-all, a good night overall.
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