The Kings followed up one of their best performances of the season with their biggest comeback of the season, led by Darren Collison, DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore. All three players finished with 22 points and helped the Kings come back from a 22 point third quarter deficit to beat the Atlanta Hawks for their 22nd win of the season. 22 was definitely the magic number.
After playing so well for 48 minutes against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, the Kings came out of the gates on Friday looking like a different team. The energy was flat and the team couldn’t even make simple passes. DeMarcus Cousins, who should have been well rested following his one-game suspension, got off to one of his worst starts of the season, racking up four of Sacramento’s seven first quarter turnovers. Meanwhile for the Hawks, Paul Millsap went perfect from the floor on the other end for 12 first quarter points as Atlanta took a 28-17 lead after one.
The second quarter wasn’t much better as the Hawks were still getting whatever they wanted on offense and the Kings couldn’t get into much of a rhythm themselves whether it was the bench or the starters. Atlanta finished the first half shooting 60% from the field to just 40% for the Kings. Sacramento actually shot better from three in the first half than they did from the rest of the field, going 8-17 from downtown and just 6-18 from everywhere else. Tim Hardaway Jr. in particular burned the Kings for 18 of his 28 points in the first half.
The same problems that plagued the Kings in the first half continued early on in the second. Atlanta grew their lead to 22 early on and the only saving grace for Sacramento for most of the quarter was the spirited play of Ben McLemore and Darren Collison. McLemore and Collison hit shot after shot to try to keep the Kings in it, but nobody else on the team was really contributing much offensively. DeMarcus Cousins in particular continued to struggle despite getting plenty of opportunities. Despite flirting with a triple-double at 10 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists, Cousins also was shooting just 2-11 from the field, 0-6 from three, 6-11 from the line and racked up 7 turnovers and five fouls, all before the fourth quarter.
After Cousins left the game late in the third after picking up his fifth foul, the bench came in and helped spark a mini-run that cut the Hawks’ lead to 10 going to the fourth. More importantly the team started to get some stops. After six minutes had gone by in the fourth quarter, the Kings had cut Atlanta’s lead to two and allowed the Hawks to score just six points.
Cousins checked back in with Atlanta up by five with under six minutes and seemed to feed off the energy provided by his teammates. He immediately scored five points to tie the game at 93. On the ensuing possession the Kings had the chance to take the lead for the first time and Cousins threw an incredible pass to Collison at the rim but Collison pushed it too strong off the glass. At that point Atlanta started to play with a bit more urgency and extended their lead to seven until Anthony Tolliver cut it back to four with yet another three pointer (Tolliver finished the night 5-7 from three). Cousins followed that up with a three of his own to make it 101-100 Atlanta. A couple of empty possessions followed for both teams and ended up with Ben McLemore taking a wide open three, airballing it, and Matt Barnes cleaning up the glass to put the Kings up 102-101 with 1:11 left, forcing Atlanta to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout Dennis Schroder took it to the basket and drew the fifth foul on Darren Collison. The Kings were already in the penalty at that point so Schroeder went to the line and gave Atlanta the lead right back with 1:01 left. The Kings got the ball to DeMarcus Cousins and he took it right at Dwight Howard, who fouled him as he took to the basket. It was Howard’s 6th and final foul, and Cousins made both free throws to put the Kings up 104-103 with 44 seconds left. Atlanta chose not to call a timeout and Schroder buried a pull up jumper to change the lead once more with 34.9 remaining. The Kings called a timeout and ran a two man play with Cousins and Collison that resulted in a favorable mismatch for DeMarcus. Boogie missed the first shot but had good enough position to tip it in and put Sacramento up 106-105 with 20.8 seconds.
Cousins also nearly stole the ball on the following possession, but Paul Millsap was able to recover and took it to the basket with Cousins in close pursuit. Millsap got away with a pushoff on Cousins and sank the short jumper with 7.9 seconds left. The Kings didn’t spend time feeling sorry for themselves though and Dave Joerger drew another great out of timeout play, giving Darren Collison the ball at the top of the key. Collison drove straight to the basket and sank a tough layup over two defenders with 3.5 left, putting Sacramento up 108-107.
All it would take for the Kings to win was one final stop, and fortunately they did.
The Hawks got a decent play for Tim Hardaway Jr. running towards the basket but Matt Barnes, Ben McLemore and DeMarcus Cousins all collapsed on him and got a piece of the ball, forcing the miss and completing the biggest comeback of the season.
Collison was the hero, and he had the extra burden of having to play almost 44 minutes with Ty Lawson sitting out, but he wasn’t alone. Ben McLemore had his best game of the season and maybe the best of his career, scoring 22 points (including 6-10 from three) to go with 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists. Cousins, despite a slow start and a rough shooting night (6-17 from the field), came through when it counted to finish with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Anthony Tolliver finished with 15 points and Willie Cauley-Stein added 9 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in just 16 minutes.
Sacramento finished the game shooting 47.5% and had a big advantage from downtown where they made 18-36 of their attempts to just 11-30 for Atlanta. That 18 attempts set a franchise record, per CSN’s James Ham. They also finished with 27 assists to just 19 for the Hawks.
If the Kings had lost, there’d be a lot of focus on the poor start, and the Kings can’t keep giving up these big leads to teams. But the team never quit, and this time they came through. Now it’s time to channel that same effort all game long.
The Kings have now won two in a row and face the New Orleans Pelicans this Sunday. Let’s make it three.
- Matt Barnes managed to get a technical foul after stealing the ball from Atlanta and getting fouled all because he wouldn’t shut up about a call that had happened 30 seconds prior. I liked how Grant called him out for his hypocrisy by bringing up Barnes’ quote from a couple weeks ago about how the Kings complain too much.
- Kosta Koufos almost never bites on any pump fakes and yet somehow did on Dwight Howard pump faking a corner three in the first quarter. Also, what is Dwight Howard doing out on the perimeter in the first place?
- Willie just looks so much more comfortable on the floor right now than he did at the start of the season. I would like to see him take some more of those free throw line jumpers that teams give him, as he’s showcased a nice shooting touch from that range.
- Ben McLemore has started to knock down his three pointers at a far more consistent rate. That’s how he’ll stick in the league. I do wonder if it’s too little, too late for his Kings career. He still needs to find some touch around the rim though.
- Kent Bazemore had some incredibly athletic blocks for Atlanta. He finished with 3 on the game.
- Someone on Twitter mentioned to me that it feels like every time Malachi Richardson comes into the game he immediately scores and then completely disappears into the night. That’s definitely what it felt like tonight. I want to see him featured a little bit more on the offense when he’s in.
- The final two after timeout plays by Dave Joerger were phenomenal. There was no wasted time, good ball movement and the Kings were decisive with what they wanted to do.
- You might have read about this memo that the NBA sent out to all 30 teams on a new social media policy to not “disparage” other NBA teams or players. The Kings and Hawks took the policy to an amazing level with constant compliments and encouragement to each other. Here’s just one highlight but feel free to check out the Kings twitter page for some more wholesome goodness.
Seriously these folks need a raise— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 11, 2017