Just smile and enjoy the win. In a season full of bad losses and ugly basketball, Sacramento Kings fans deserve a one night reprieve. Tuesday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns had all the makings of another brutal chapter in the Kings losing season. And then, as has become commonplace for Sacramento this year, the team made a sustained run. Only this one had a positive ending. Full of effort, energy, gritty defense and timely baskets, the Kings recovered to pickup a much-needed 107-104 victory over the Suns.
IF YOU MUST… — Feel free to gloss over this part. Truth is, this game was about as ugly as it’s been for the Kings through the first two-plus quarters.
* Ball control was absolutely abysmal. My goodness. In the second quarter alone, there were three instances of the Kings throwing the ball away on simple perimeter passes, and two more turnovers via inbound passes. The total lack of care for the ball had Kings fans booing and for good reason. Unacceptable.
* The Kings early defense was disgusting. Players were continually beat off the dribble, and when a helper came to the rescue, the Suns perimeter shooters killed Sacramento from the outside with uncontensted long balls.
* Down the stretch, the Kings carelessness with the ball returned. Isaiah Thomas (24 MIN, 19 PTS, 6-12 FG, 6-6 FT, 3 AST, 2 STL, 3 TO) had a poorly-timed turnover on an entry pass, and DeMarcus Cousins…Boogie, we love you, you’re amazing, but please, you are not a guard. Cousins’ refusal to give the ball up in the closing seconds nearly cost the team the game. He should have a dribbling restriction in the backcourt.
KINGS BUCKLE DOWN LATE – It’s rare to say this, but the Kings won this game on the defensive end, and that includes the defensive boards. It started with Isaiah’s on-ball defense against Goran Dragic, the Suns floor general. Thomas stepping up to that challenge changed the game — Dragic found it harder to penetrate, and the Kings didn’t have to leave shooters to help. After Thomas, a collection of players got after it. Ben McLemore, Travis Outlaw and Patrick Patterson were extremely active, tracking down the Phoenix swingmen and using their athleticism to challenge dribblers and shooters. Outlaw was especially helpful on the glass, ensuring the Suns were one-and-done on a majority of their possessions. The team fed off the crowd’s energy, and the result was a hard-fought victory.
COUSINS GIVES IT HIS ALL – The maturation of DeMarcus Cousins (35 MIN, 27 PTS, 9-18 FG, 9-15 FT, 12 REB, 3 AST, 4 STL, 2 BLK, 4 TO) continues. The Kings big man is becoming a nearly unstoppable load underneath the basket. When Sacramento needed baskets late, the team ran the ball through Cousins. DMC did a great job of bullying his way to the basket, yet staying under enough control to finish at the rim. In years past, Cousins would lose his composure after contact and search for fouls. Not this year. As seen against Phoenix, Cousins powers through defenders and lets nobody stand in his way. There are plenty of improvements to be made — his decision making being first and foremost — but Boogie seems well on his way to stardom.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – McLemore (34 MIN, 19 PTS, 5-13 FG, 4-10 3FG, 5-5 FT, 5 REB, 1 BLK, 1 TO) was the Kings gunner in the first half. The rookie had his shot working and being engaged in a little head-to-head battle with Gerald Green seemed to energize McLemore. Good to see him find his shot after three clunkers … Marcus Thornton was active but saw no floor time as Coach Michael Malone went with Jimmer Fredette. No complaints here. Jimmer (14 MIN, 3 PTS, 1-5 FG, 3 AST, 1 TO) provided a mixed bag — if he would just shoot at first touch he’d be so much better off, but he keeps getting into trouble when he overdribbles … Hamady Ndiaye (5 MIN, 1 REB, 1 AST) is fun to watch. His defensive instincts are actually pretty good, and he even surprised with an awesome kick-out pass for a Patterson triple. No problem with him taking Chuck Hayes’ minutes … Outlaw (18 MIN, 4 PTS, 2-5 FG, 9 REB, 3 TO) also had a clutch turnaround jumper in the final minute. There’s no doubt he should be seeing more minutes at the expense of the lethargic John Salmons (6 MIN, 2 TO).