You can say that wins and losses don’t actually matter for a rebuilding team, but at some point, the constant losing can affect morale and demoralize a young roster. The Sacramento Kings were reaching that stage, and as Saturday night’s game in Utah hit crunch time, it appeared the Kings would again be on the wrong end of a heartbreaker. After coughing up a seven-point fourth-quarter lead, the Kings regained their composure. With the help of their flashy rookie, the Kings took the game to overtime and from that point on, it was all Sacramento. The Kings snapped a six-game losing streak by dropping the Jazz, 112-102.
MCLEMORE SAVES THE DAY – With hope fading and a once big lead turned into a small deficit, the Kings needed someone to step up with a clutch basket. It didn’t look like that person would be Ben McLemore (38 MIN, 15 PTS, 6-17 FG, 1-6 3FG, 9 REB, 2 STL, 1 BLK). The Kings rookie had a brutal final quarter, succumbing to the pressure of the moment on some easy open looks. But with Sacramento down three, 12 seconds on the clock and no timeouts in hand, it was McLemore who took a pass from Isaiah Thomas at the top of the arc and calmly drilled a game-tying triple to force overtime. In the extra frame, McLemore again beat the clock, hitting a smooth runner on the left wing with the shot clock dwindling. Games like this will only build the confidence of McLemore, who aside from those late-game misses played an active game as the Kings leader in floor time and shot attempts.
MALONE CHANGES COURSE – A night after his questionable lineup decisions had Kings fans scratching their heads, Coach Michael Malone took a different approach in Utah. And it certainly wasn’t an easy course to take. Malone watched his squad, led by point guard Isaiah Thomas (32 MIN, 26 PTS, 8-14 FG, 9-10 FT, 8 AST, 4 STL, 3 TO), take a nine-point lead with seven minutes to play, then watched as that same lineup fell apart and allowed Utah to take a seemingly commanding seven-point lead with just 2:59 to play. But rather than abort mission, Malone stuck with his guns. Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins scored the Kings next 10 points to pull Sacramento within one, and Thomas then assisted on McLemore’s tying triple. It was a show of faith by Malone in Thomas and McLemore, two players who had some miscues during Utah’s run. But the pair were critical pieces to the Kings victory.
COUSINS KEEPS COOL, CARRIES KINGS – As Sacramento’s offense started to fade, the team had no choice but to trust in DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins (27 MIN, 28 PTS, 10-15 FG, 8-10 FT, 7 REB, 3 AST, 3 BLK, 2 STL, 4 TO) came through big time, putting the team — and Enes Kanter — on his back on the road to victory. Cousins powered through the Jazz interior defense, fouling out the pesty Kanter in the process. Despite some unfavorable calls, Cousins managed to stay relatively calm aside from the occasional flail in search of a whistle. Cousins scored 23 of his 28 points in the second half and overtime, overcoming early foul trouble to help guide the Kings to a much-needed victory.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – John Salmons (28 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-8 FG, 3 REB, 5 AST, 2 TO) was again relied upon for his defense, drawing the assignment of guarding Gordon Hayward for most of the second half. He did a strong job, as Hayward managed just six of his 22 points in the second half and overtime. Unfortunately, Salmons combined with Marcus Thornton (15 MIN, 4 PTS, 2-7 FG, 2 REB) to shoot just 3-for-15. That could have cost the Kings the game … Sacramento held the Jazz scoreless over the final 3:16 of the game … The Kings early “hack-a-Biedrins” strategy worked as the Jazz big man made just 1-of-6 from the line.