Ten minutes ago, this was going to be a DeMarcus Cousins piece. Then a lethargic Kings team awakened from its slumber, and a miracle comeback was almost achieved against the Milwaukee Bucks. Sacramento came out as flat as ever and watched the high-powered Bucks backcourt push Milwaukee to a big lead. Cousins’ ejection spurred a mini run in the third quarter, and a full-on Kings comeback bid went down in the final minutes. But some questionable officiating ended that hope, and the Bucks escaped with a 115-113 victory.
FRANTIC FINAL MINUTES – First things first…hats off to the Kings final unit, specifically Jimmer Fredette, for not throwing in the towel when most watching already had. Jimmer checked in with the Kings down 15 points and just 3:47 left. And from then on, it wasn’t, “Hey, let me get some shots up and work on my game.” It was, “Let’s make a run at this.” And the Kings did just that. Fredette (9 MIN, 14 PTS, 5-6 FG) scored 11 points in those final minutes and helped pull the Kings within one point with 23 seconds left.
Then things got a little nutty. First, Sacramento was slow to put Milwaukee on the line, wasting eight seconds — that’s on Coach Smart. Those eight seconds would prove to be pretty valuable. A timeout-less Kings team looked to push the ball, down three with six seconds left. But the uptempo push was stopped by a ridiculously soft foul call — Brandon Jennings grazed Fredette while yelling, “Foul! Foul! Foul!” After making the first free throw, Jimmer missed the second intentionally, corralled the rebound and appeared to be clearly fouled by Monta Ellis. After calling the softy seconds earlier, the refs now swallowed their whistles. Fredette got the ball to Tyreke Evans, who nearly drilled an off balance triple at the buzzer. The clock hit zero, and the Bucks won. Didn’t get the calls down the stretch, and that’s rare for the aggressive home team to not get the benefit of the doubt. That’s all you can say.
THE COUSINS STATEMENT – Stop me if you’ve heard this before: DeMarcus Cousins (28 MIN, 24 PTS, 10-12 FG, 10 REB) lost his cool and was ejected, bringing an end to what had been a productive night. Let’s start with the initial incident…Mike Dunleavy went low with a box out on an unsuspecting Cousins, causing Cousins’ knee to buckle awkwardly. Dirty? I’m inclined to say no. When you try to box out a much bigger player, you have to get low, and I don’t know Dunleavy to have any reason to gun for Cousins’ knees. That said, I can understand why Cousins would be a little touchy about the subject — knee injuries ruin careers. But as is always the case, Cousins’ handling of the incident makes him look less than professional.
Cousins immediately sought out Dunleavy to have some words as he walked off the court. Understandable…let him know you didn’t care for that and move on. But after a timeout break to cool off, Cousins again went to talk to Dunleavy, and things escalated, prompting a double technical. Play resumed and on the ensuing possession, Cousins threw an elbow into the back of Dunleavy’s head. DUMB. The refs are watching you closely. You want revenge? Wait for the right time, give him a hard foul on a layup. Throwing elbows to a guy’s head? Just brilliant. Cousins was rightfully ejected and it’d be a surprise to see him play in the Kings next game Wednesday.
As for Keith Smart, I have a hard time blaming him for Cousins’ transgressions. Some say he should have benched Cousins immediately after the initial Dunleavy play. Maybe not a bad idea. But nobody other than Cousins should shoulder the blame for him being unprofessional in this situation.
At the end of the day, I like to watch basketball players play basketball and enjoy themselves. I get no joy out of dealing with Cousins’ sulky attitude and out-of-control behavior. When he wants to play, I’m on board…nobody can deny his talent. But he’s got serious issues that he needs to overcome, and to be honest, I was just as happy to watch the rest of the guys come together in his absence.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Special shoutout is needed for Isaiah Thomas. Immediately after Cousins was ejected, Thomas (35 MIN, 14 PTS, 4-16 FG, 9 AST, 5 REB, 2 TO) took the team by the reins. He did everything in his power to revive a sleeping roster. It was something a true leader does — recognize that his team needs a boost and provide it. Impressive … John Salmons (36 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-8 FG, 1-5 3FG, 0-2 FT, 4 REB, 4 AST) missed some really wide open looks from downtown that could have brought the Kings back a little earlier … Cole Aldrich (3 MIN, 2 PTS, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL) got some late run and wasn’t totally useless. He’s slower on his feet than Chuck Hayes but he’s got a big body. Never hurts to have a seven-footer around for certain situations.