The big story walking into the evening was the return of DeMarcus Cousins to Sacramento. He was given a (mostly) standing ovation during introductions and the Kings also opted to play a well put together tribute video for the controversial big man.
The game opened with an easy Boogie dunk, and a sense of unease briefly took over the crowd, but that feeling was soon to be forgotten with the hottest start the Kings have enjoyed in their short season.
After the initial score from our former All-Star, Sacramento went on a 25-4 run to build what should have been an insurmountable lead. The same starting lineup that has struggled to start quickly was able to dominate the decimated Pelicans squad early on, scoring 40 points in the first period, the most of any quarter this year. The young bigs were the highlight of the opening salvo, with Willie Cauley-Stein scoring 8 points on a perfect 3/3 shooting and Skal Labissiere scoring 7 quick points in just two minutes.
The second quarter was a bit more back and forth, but De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Garrett Temple all contributed off the bench and the Kings walked into halftime with a surprising 70-54 lead. At halftime, DeMarcus Cousins had 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, but the top play of the quarter was Skal Labissiere’s huge block.
The second half started with the same crew for the past few games: George Hill, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson, Zach Randolph, and Willie Cauley-Stein. Unlike the unexpected first quarter production, this miserable combination was unable to stop the Pelicans or score the ball on the other end of the court. The Kings were outscored badly, 32-17 and couldn’t find any rhythm on offense. Jrue Holiday torched every Sacramento player put in front of him, scoring 11 points in the 3rd quarter alone. The Pelicans managed to turn a 14 point deficit into a 1 point lead in just 12 minutes of play.
Although they lost, the Kings showed some real fight in the final stretch. Interestingly, after only playing 13 minutes apiece throughout the first 3 quarters, both De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic played the entire 4th quarter. While Sacramento did their best, DeMarcus Cousins got a couple of favorable calls (I know, I know) and scored 14 points while grabbing 8 rebounds in the final period. Cousins ended the game with a huge statline of 41 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block, including 7 of the last 9 New Orleans points, and the dagger 3-pointer to seal the game.
- Skal Labissiere scored 7 points in the first 3 minutes of the game, but only played 15 overall. I understand the desire to have a bruiser in the game against Boogie, but Skal deserves more time than that. He also has yet to miss a free throw on the season, hitting a perfect 9/9 attempts.
- Willie Cauley-Stein had a great overall game. 12 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Even though Cousins put up a ridiculous line, Willie was pretty strong throughout the evening.
- Speaking of filling the stat sheet, Bogdan Bogdanovic displayed his entire repertoire tonight, including the nastiest crossover I’ve seen from a Kings player in a long, long time.
- De’Aaron Fox has now outplayed George Hilll for the 4th time in 5 games. When is it time for him to takeover that starting spot?
- The Kings were much better as a team at getting to the rim and drawing fouls tonight. After averaging on 16 attempts per game in the first 4 contests, Sacramento took 25 shots from the charity stripe, making an impressive 23 of those.
- The bench once again outscored the starters, 56-50.