Game 44 Notes: Sacramento Kings Drop the Season Series to Charlotte Hornets

Jan 25, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) and Charlotte Hornets forward Spencer Hawes (00) run up the court during the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 25, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) and Charlotte Hornets forward Spencer Hawes (00) run up the court during the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports /

Monday night’s matchup between the Charlotte Hornets and the Sacramento Kings was a game of attrition.

Charlotte, without Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, Jeremy Lamb and Nic Batum due to injury, was forced to throw a combination of Spencer Hawes, Marvin Williams, Tyler Hansbrough and Frank Kaminsky at DeMarcus Cousins. Hawes, Williams and Hansbrough all fouled out.

Sacramento, playing off the Hornets’ lack of front court depth, made Cousins’ role in its offense an unmistakable priority. As a result, DeMarcus tallied a career-high 56 points on 30 shots and 13 made free throws. But, in the game’s second overtime, he fouled out after Kaminsky, Charlotte’s only remaining player standing six-foot-six or taller, absorbed what the officials believed to be a high elbow.

Though the Kings would lead late into double overtime, Charlotte’s sharpshooting was too much to overcome, as the Hornets, sweeping the season series, won 129 to 128.

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At the game’s start, Sacramento was firmly in control. Riding a quick pace and the return of Rudy Gay, who had 12 points and six rebounds at the end of the first quarter, the Kings led 31 to 16 after 12 minutes. The Hornets, who shot just 16.7 percent in that first quarter, later capitalized on the Kings’ poor bench play, and narrowed the deficit to five. Sacramento’s starters reentered the game, and its advantage was pushed up to 10 (56-46) at halftime.

In the early minutes of the third quarter, that lead was quickly erased. The Hornets took a 57-56 lead on the back of a 10-to-one run, aided in no small part by its outside shooting. Charlotte, a team making 35 percent of its three-point shots this season, converted each of its first seven threes taken in that quarter, eventually making nine of 12 attempted third quarter threes.

With 9:23 left in the fourth, the Hornets held a 92-84 lead. Though the Kings responded with five points of its own, Charlotte’s advantage was back up to eight at the 3:25 mark—its largest lead of the game.

Later, after Cousins and company cut the Hornets’ lead to one, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker lost the basketball out of bounds along the baseline, giving Sacramento the ball with 7.8 seconds left. The Kings, using a timeout to advance its position, immediately fed Cousins underneath the basket, where the big man was fouled — by Hawes, who fouled out on the play — going up for a lay-in. DeMarcus made both free throws, and his Kings led by one with 5.1 to play.

In response, Walker, driving to his right, drew a foul on James Anderson, and was awarded two free throws—the chance to give his team the lead with 0.6 seconds left to play. He made the first. He missed the second. The game, like last November’s matchup in Charlotte, went to overtime.

And it should be noted that in between Walker’s two free throws, the Kings’ players did all they could to pull off what can only be described as the basketball equivalent of “icing” the kicker. In a series of time-consuming movements orchestrated by — who else — Rajon Rondo, several Kings took the extra time to switch positions on either side of the paint, giving Walker a few extra seconds to contemplate the significance of the free throw he was about to hoist.

Anyhow, in the next five minutes of overtime, DeMarcus Cousins’s offense forced both Marvin Williams and Tyler Hansbrough into a sixth and final foul, as both teams continued to trade contested baskets. The game’s intensity reached its peak when, in the period’s closing seconds, Charlotte’s Walker lifted a soft driving floater high into the air, where it was it met by the outstretched hand of Willie Cauley-Stein.

Another overtime period was in order.

Early in double overtime, Rudy Gay was fouled in the act of shooting a three, having been inadvertently poked in the eye by Walker. Rudy, shooting three free throws sans one unscratched left eye, missed the first, made the second and missed the third. He would exit the game shortly thereafter.

In the game’s final minute, Omri Casspi, driving right, dropped the ball of to a waiting Cauley-Stein, who gave the Kings a two-point advantage with 11.9 seconds to play. In quick response, Charlotte’s Troy Daniels drained a three from some four-to-five feet behind the arc, and the Hornets held a 129-128 lead with just nine seconds left.

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With one more chance to take the game back, the best attempt Sacramento could muster was a turnaround, fadeaway Darren Collison jumper, which spun halfway down the cylinder and slipped out. Charlotte secured the rebound, and with it, the win.

While, as a team, the Kings were limited to just seven three-point makes on 23 tries (30.4 percent), the Hornets made 20 of its 44 attempted threes (45.5 percent), outscoring Sacramento by 39 points from behind the arc. The inability of Sacramento’s guards to contain dribble penetration — allowing drive-and-kick opportunities for Walker (eight assists) and Jeremy Lin (11 assists) — played central roles in the two teams’ shooting disparity.

Notable Performances

For Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins, just named the Western Conference Player of the Week, posted a stat line of 56 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal. Though the league’s best center committed seven turnovers in the process, Monday night’s performance was undoubtedly his most dominant in six NBA seasons.

Rajon Rondo, meanwhile, fell three points short of a triple-double, with seven points, 10 rebounds and 20 — yes, 20 — assists.

For Charlotte, Kemba Walker, just named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, accumulated 24 points on 25 shots, going 5-25 from the floor and 1-8 from beyond the arc. The point guard added eight assists, and made 13 of his 15 attempted free throws.

Troy Daniels, a career 40 percent three-point shooter, converted 10 of his 15 attempted field goals, including eight of his 11 attempted threes. He finished the game with a career-high 28 points.