by Charlie O. Mallonee
The Sacramento Kings returned home on Saturday night looking to get back into win column after losing two heartbreakers on the road in Dallas and Memphis. The problem for the Kings was their first opponent on this short three game homestand was the defending NBA Champions – the San Antonio Spurs.
The Kings came out and played 48 minutes of tough defense and played four quarters of consistent offense en route to defeating the Spurs 94-91 before a sellout crowd.
The Kings were led on offense by DeMarcus Cousins with 25 points and 10 rebounds. That is not really a surprise. What was surprising was the fact that Cousins played just nine minutes in the first half. He came out of the game with three minutes to play in the first quarter, and he sat the entire second quarter.
After the game, Kings Head Coach Michael said he did not plan to keep Cousins out for the entire quarter but the unit on the floor was playing well and it gave his center a chance to rest. Cousins would need that energy going down the stretch against the Spurs.
Darren Collison took the lead multiple times in the flow of the game. The point guard scored 19 points, dished out five assists, had two steals and grabbed two rebounds in his 39 minutes of playing time, Colllison consistently pushed the pace of the game to keep the Kings playing at a high tempo.
Rudy Gay had a productive night for Sacramento. Gay scored 18 points, had six assists, pulled down three rebounds and added a steal and a blocked shot to his box score. Gay and Collison combined to lead the Kings when Cousins was on the bench.
Omri Casspi had a very productive night for Sacramento. In his 22 minutes on the floor, Casspi scored nine points, recorded five rebounds, a steal and one blocked shot. Casspi’s rebounds seemed to come at just the right moments for the Kings.
Carl Landry played some key minutes with Cousins on the bench. He finished with eight points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and one steal. Landry’s solid play off the bench helped the Kings stay in the game.
In his postgame comments, Michael Malone emphasized his teams outstanding defensive effort. The Kings held the Spurs to just 42.5-percent shooting (34 for 80) and just 29.2-percent (7 for 24) from beyond the 3-point line. Sacramento allowed the Spurs to score just 34 points in the paint.
Manu Ginobili led the Spurs in scoring with 21 points but Sacramento held him to just one 3-pointer (1 for 7) in the game. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green scored 16 points each. Future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan added 15 points. The Kings held Tony Parker to just 11 points.
On holding Parker to just 11 points Coach Michael Malone said, “Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions – all the guys who were out there did a great job. We had discipline.”
The Kings as a team shot 43.0-percent (37 for 86) from the field. Ironically, the Kings went 0 for 12 from 3-point range. They went to the free throw line just 24 times but hit on 20 of those opportunities (83.3-percent).
On offense, the key for the Kings was their play in the paint. Sacramento scored 58 points in the paint. It is safe to say they dominated the paint.
The Kings also took care of the ball against the Spurs. They committed just nine turnovers in the game; well below their goal of 13 turnovers per game.
In summing up the game Michael Malone said,”It feels great anytime that you can beat the defending champions and protect your homecourt. More importantly for me tonight was the defense. We only shot 43-percent from the field, but the key was that we defended at a high level. We held that team to 91 points and 42-percent from the field. We dominated the paint and only had nine turnovers. If we defend like that, like we did earlier in the year, then I really feel we can beat anyone in the NBA.”
The Kings will back in action on Tuesday night versus the New Orleans Pelicans at Sleep Train Arena.