If that felt like a playoff game, it’s probably because for the Sacramento Kings, games like these are the playoffs. The sullen Kings trudged into Sleep Train Arena riding an ugly string of basketball, and as the Miami Heat bludgeoned them throughout the first quarter, it appeared rock bottom was getting lower. But buoyed by an electric sold-out arena, the Kings decided to fight. In one of the most frustrating, emotional, joyous, exciting games of the season, Sacramento erased a 17-point deficit, forced overtime, and overcame an insane flurry from LeBron James to pick up an amazing 108-103 victory.
THE TWO SIDES OF DEMARCUS COUSINS – For reasons both good and bad, DeMarcus Cousins (41 MIN, 27 PTS, 10-21 FG, 7-10 FT, 17 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 5 TO) was the most intriguing personality of the game. The volcano known as Mt. Cousins has never looked closer to an eruption. The ugliness of the first quarter clearly had Cousins stewing, and the big man pouted his way up and down the court a handful of times. He cost the Kings points on both ends and gave off an awful attitude that had you bemoaning his presence. After the Kings clawed their way back, it was the Miami Heat who became the agitators. James gave Cousins an extra shove after one foul, and Mario Chalmers followed with a flagrant foul shove. On both plays, Cousins popped off the floor like he was ready to fight the world. Honestly, it was scary to see the line of anger Cousins was approaching. But in maybe the surprise of the century, Cousins kept his head, and to his credit, he made some crucial plays in overtime. He carved out position without being too physical and had some massive tip-ins to secure victory. The Kings have to be thankful for the win because Cousins in a losing locker room would have been a ticking time bomb.
RUDY GAY, THE SAVIOR – The Kings would have been nowhere close without the stellar contributious of Rudy Gay. After missing his first five shots during the Kings dreadful start, Gay (40 MIN, 26 PTS, 11-19 FG, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 5 TO) found the touch, burying 11 of his final 14 shots. He was the Kings reliable, steady option down the stretch, hitting a plethora of timely outside shots and showing a deft touch around the basket. Perhaps just as important was Gay’s work on the defensive end. Looking at James’ stat line, it may sound crazy to say he bottled up the Heat star. But aside from some late-game heroics from James, Gay did a great job of shadowing James and keeping him on the perimeter. Gay was a difference maker, and hopefully this game gets him back on the right track. It was even nice to see him show some emotion, as one knock on him so far has been his lack of fire.
ISAIAH’S IMPORTANCE – After discussing the work of Cousins and Gay, it’s still not hard to claim that Isaiah Thomas (41 MIN, 22 PTS, 7-16 FG, 3-7 3FG, 5-6 FT, 11 AST, 7 REB, 1 STL, 3 TO) was the Kings most valuable player. Thomas provided everything you want from your floor general, and it’s easy to see his effect on the game when he goes to the bench. Coach Michael Malone tried to sneak Thomas a rest to start the fourth quarter, and the Kings offense, headed by Jimmer Fredette (12 MIN, 0 PTS, 0-1 FG, 3 AST, 1 TO), produced four turnovers before even attempting a shot (six total turnovers in the 5:14 Thomas sat in the fourth). With Thomas, the Kings regained their composure, and it didn’t hurt that Thomas was near the top of his game. He scored seven points in overtime, commanded the Kings offense throughout and led them to victory.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Derrick Williams was the Kings power forward for most of the final minutes, but the work of Jason Thompson and Quincy Acy should not be ignored. Thompson (21 MIN, 10 PTS, 5-6 FG, 3 REB) did some nice finishing at the rim, and Acy (15 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-3 FG, 4 REB, 1 BLK) was the Kings leading scorer in the first half … Shooting guard was an unreliable spot for the Kings, though Marcus Thornton’s veteran presence was preferred down the stretch. Neither he nor Ben McLemore (combined 2-8 FG, 9 PTS) provided anything on the offensive end … The Heat played without Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen … The Kings made just 5-of-20 from downtown but outscored the Heat 60-38 in the paint.
Sacramento heads to San Antonio for a Sunday tilt. If you’re looking to go to the game, you can find Kings vs. Spurs tickets still available.