by Charlie O. Mallonee
The Sacramento Kings could have easily rolled into Charlotte with their heads hung low after losing a tough game in overtime in Indiana on Friday night. After all, it was the second game of a back-to-back set on the road and no road team wins those games anyway, but that is not what happened on Saturday night.
The Kings came out from the opening tip-off looking like a team that had just finished two days of rest. They ran the court, made crisp passes, looked for the extra pass, sank 3-point baskets and played defense. Literally, the Kings had shaken off the disappointment of losing to the Pacers and were focusing on beating the Hornets.
The Kings did exactly that. They beat the Charlotte Hornets 109-106 on the road. The Hornets came into the game having lost three consecutive games. They desperately were looking for the magic of the home court advantage to work for them and it almost did. What the Hornets did not count on was the new found togetherness that Kings have developed on this road trip that has them playing as a team and not individuals. That makes Sacramento (19-28) a very dangerous opponent.
The Kings have learned how to start games fast and strong. On Saturday, the Kings shot 50-percent from the floor while going 6-for-15 (40-percent) from beyond the 3-point line putting up 52 points on the board in the first half. Sacramento also played tough defense holding the Hornets to 44 points on 42.9-percent shooting. Charlotte hit just 3-of-18 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc which is normally a strong point for them. Their All-Star guard Kemba Walker was limited to six points.
In the third period, the Hornets (23-25) came alive to no one’s surprise. It was Kemba Walker who led the charge scoring 20 of the Hornets 33 points in the quarter. Charlotte shot 66.7-percent from the floor and for 3-pointers. The Charlotte crowd came alive as their team was working their way back into the game. It is also important to note the Kings shot 54.5-percent in the quarter while Cousins and Collison scored 11 points each. Each team scored 33 points in the third period. At the end of 36-minutes, the Kings held an 85-77 lead.
The game took a sudden change of momentum early in the fourth quarter as the Hornets cut the Kings lead to just three points in under just two minutes behind the 3-point shooting of Nicolas Batum and Frank Kaminsky. Sacramento pushed it back to an eight-point lead but then things went downhill.
The Hornets hit five 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter and took the lead in the game with 2:19 remaining on a 3-point field goal by Marvin Williams. The Kings tied the game at 106 each and gained control of the ball with 31-seconds to go in the contest.
Following a Sacramento timeout, the Kings put the ball in the hands of DeMarcus Cousins who drove on the basket from the right wing to make the layup and give his team a two-point lead. With 14-seconds left, the Hornets hopes fell to a 3-point shot by Kaminsky which came up short and was rebounded by Cousins who was fouled. Cousins hit 1-of-2 free throws to give his team the 109-106 victory.
Cousins on the win
- We’re understanding better – we can win by playing together
- (we’re playing) team oriented defense
- The “iso” style is out of play
- The only way we win game is playing together
Who did what in the game
- DeMarcus Cousins scored a game-high 35 points and pulled down 18 rebounds to record his 12th consecutive double-double game. Cousins also had four assists and seven of his rebounds came on offense which extended possessions
- Anthony Tolliver scored 14 points hitting on 4-of-8 shots from long range. Those 3-point baskets seemed crush the Hornets momentum each time. He also grabbed seven rebounds
- Willie Cauley-Stein played 14-minutes of impressive basketball against the Hornets. He shot 6-for-7 from the floor for 13 points and made his presence known on the floor
- Other key contributors: Darren Collison 17 points, Arron Afflalo 13 points and 4 assists
- Team numbers: 51.9-percent Field Goals, 11-for-27 (40.7-percent) 3-pt Field Goals, 27 assists and just 10 turnovers that resulted in just nine Hornet points
- Kemba Walker led the Hornets scoring with 26 points (20 in the third quarter). He did not score any points in the fourth quarter. Seven assists
- Nicolas Batum put up 19 points that included hitting 3-of-6 for 3-pointers. He also had seven assists
- Former Sacramento King Spencer Hawes scored 12 points off the bench and grabbed seven rebounds. He also tried to get DeMarcus Cousins ejected from the game (see below)
- Team numbers: 48-percent Field Goals, 32.4-percent 3-pt FGs, 22-for-24 (91.7-percent) from the free throw line
Dave Joerger’s postgame analysis
- Good NBA game – both teams played hard
- We’ve been playing much better lately and we showed some resiliency tonight coming back on the second night of a back-to-back
- Kemba Walker was fantastic especially in the third quarter
- We’re getting better at the little things-taking care of the ball
- We had (only) three turnovers in the second half which has been a problem for us. We executed there
Oh no – Tech foul number 13
DeMarcus Cousins and Spencer Hawes were both assessed a technical foul with three minutes to go in the first half of the game. Cousins had just made a layup and was fouled by Hawes. After the foul, there were a few words and very (VERY) minor pushes with one hand from each player. It was really a nothing moment that happens in virtually every NBA game nightly.
Neither player ( and believe me when I say that I am no fan of Hawes ) deserved to be hit with a tech foul. A verbal warning from the referee would have been more than sufficient.
Being the agitator that he is – Hawes kept trying to get under Cousins skin in the second half because a second technical would have meant an automatic ejection. To Cousins credit, he just ignored Hawes.
For Cousins, this is his 13th technical foul of the season. When he reaches 16, it is an automatic one-game suspension with another one-game suspension for each two tech fouls after that. The Kings cannot afford to be without Cousins for one quarter let alone for an entire game.
I would not be surprised to see this technical reversed because it was really too much – too soon for what was happening between the players.
Up next on the schedule
The Kings travel to Philadelphia on Sunday where they will play the Sixers on Monday to make up the game that was postponed on November 30 due to a wet court. The 76ers play the Bulls in Chicago on Sunday. Joel Embiid will not travel to Chicago so there is anticipation he will be available to play against the Kings on Monday. It will be a 4 p.m. tipoff on the West Coast.
The Hornets will head out on the road to play Portland on Tuesday.