Dave Joerger trotted out a new starting lineup for tonights brutally difficult matchup with the Golden State Warriors in Sacramento. Darren Collison, Garrett Temple, Rudy Gay, Anthony Tolliver, and DeMarcus Cousins. To say the new lineup worked would be a pretty big understatement. The Kings jumped out to a huge first quarter lead doing all of the things you expect that particular lineup to do. Everyone did their job. Cousins ate up Zaza Pachulia. Anthony Tolliver hit his outside shots. Garrett Temple provided some much-needed secondary ball-handling and tough perimeter defense. Collison was his usual steady self, and Rudy Gay was in get to the rim mode instead of settle for the long two mode.
Even more importantly, once that starting unit started subbing out, Ty Lawson really stepped up and led the bench unit in building the Kings’ lead. You couldn’t ask for more than what this Kings team was giving you.
It was probably the best half the Kings have played all year, considering the opponent.
Where things started to fall apart, and I use that term loosely because the Kings still took a 7 point lead into halftime, was when DeMarcus Cousins picked up his third foul, proceeded to beat up a chair, and was then hit with a technical foul for said chair-beating. I’m struggling to determine how undeserving or deserving that technical foul was. It was obviously an expression of anger and frustration, but it wasn’t guided towards the officials or his opponents so the tech call seemed a bit odd. We’ve seen similar bench antics take place with other teams, but the refs usually miss it because, you know, the game is still happening. The technical foul wasn’t nearly as impactful as the third foul, anyway, so it’s probably not worth debating how appropriate the call was. Not having Cousins on the court is the problem.
The Kings had to deal with a much sharper Warriors team in the second half, and that little seven point lead the Kings owned at halftime flipped in a hurry.
The Warriors started rolling as only they can. You know the kind of roll I’m talking about. The Kings never managed to flip the momentum back in their favor once the Warriors stole it, and they carried a steady 10 point lead from the third quarter on.
To the Kings’ credit, they hung in there. The Warriors looked good throughout the second half, but the Kings played with them shot for shot after the Warriors took the lead, they just couldn’t close the gap.
It was a good 117-106 loss if you’re into rewarding that sort of thing. It’s even more impressive when you consider how little Cousins did to help the team tonight. DeMarcus had a strong start, but foul trouble and Zaza Pachulia really kept him in check for the rest of this one. Yeah, Zaza Pachulia.
I’d like to speculate that if the Kings got an average DeMarcus Cousins performance they could have closed that 10 point gap making way for some crunch time fun. Who knows? Off nights happen, but on a night where so many other Kings brought their A-game, it was a bit more glaring.
This makes three straight losses for the Kings, and we’ve reached the point of the season where Vlade Divac and co. really need to sit down and figure out what they’re doing. If Kings brass wants to make the playoffs as much as we’ve been led to believe, that move has to come before they fall any further out of this race.