by Charlie O. Mallonee
The Sacramento Kings were in a must win situation on Sunday night when they hosted the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans are also a “Tier 3” team that is trying to break free of the NBA Draft Lottery and make it into the first-round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs.
The Kings entered the game with a predicted 69-percent chance of winning the contest with the Pelicans. The Kings had won three of their five previous games. Sacramento is still in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The men in white and purple had a lot on the line.
The Kings (22-32) did not disappoint their fans as they downed the Pelicans (21-34) 105-99. Sacramento repeated their familiar pattern where they under-performed in the first half and excelled in the second half. The Kings have been victorious in four of their last six games.
Where the Kings stand in the Playoff Race
The Kings are currently in 10th place 1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers stand in between the two teams one game behind the Nuggets and one-half game ahead of the Kings. All three teams are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
It was another battle of Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday night
The premiere match up of the night was at center which featured two former Kentucky Wildcats – DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. Davis – “the Brow” is an All-Star starter for the Western Conference and Cousins – “Boogie” is a Western Conference All-Star reserve.
Davis scored a game-high 32 points and made it double-double by adding 10 rebounds. He shot an impressive 11-for-24 from the floor and went a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line in his 40-minutes on the floor.
Cousins led the Kings scoring attack with 28 points and also recorded a double-double by hauling in 14 rebounds. He dished out seven assists. Cousins shot 7-for-14 from the field and went 14-for-16 from the charity stripe.
Stars of the game
Darren Collison gets the star for Sacramento. When the Kings needed someone to step up, Collison was the man. He finished with 20 points (7-for-16 shooting including 2 3-point baskets), eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Collison again played big minutes playing just under 41-minutes in the game.
The star has to go to “the Brow”. The fact is without the presence of Davis and his finesse on the floor the Pelicans are never really in this game. New Orleans is very much like Sacramento. Take their former Kentucky big man out of the lineup and they are a team that is in deep, deep trouble.
Looking into the book
- Matt Barnes was important on offense when needed him and then on defense when the situation called for it. Barnes finished with 12 points, five rebounds, three assists. He also hit 2-of-6 3-point tries.
- Ben McLemore had an 11 point game with nine of those points coming off three 3-point baskets. He hit on 3-of-5 tries from long range.
- Arron Afflalo put up 10 points, had two assists and one steal
- Anthony Tolliver struggled a bit shooting as he scored nine points on nine shots. All of his points came off 3-point buckets.
- Willie Cauley-Stein – the other big man from Kentucky – scored eight points in 17-minutes on the floor. Cauley-Stein did a pretty good job defending Davis which is no easy task.
- As a team: the Kings shot 44.9-percent; they went 11-for-31 (35.5-percent) for 3-pointers; they converted 24-of-27 from the free throw line; they out-rebounded the Pels 46-36; Sacramento had 23 assists and made 20 turnovers giving up 16 points to New Orleans.
- Jrue Holiday had another solid game posting a double-double with 16 points and 11 assists
- Dante Cunningham scored 14 points hitting on 4-0f-7 from long range. Do not leave that man open in 3-point land.
- Solomon Hill went 3-for-5 from the field (all 3-point attempts) and scored nine points
- As a team: the Pels shot 41.5-percent; they went 13-for-31 (41.9-percent) from downtown; NOP had 23 assists and 18 turnovers that resulted in 15 Sacramento points.
Now that’s hitting below the below the belt
The Pelicans’ Buddy Hield was ejected from the game with 2:55 remaining to play in the second quarter after he literally hit DeMarcus Cousins below the below the belt. Cousins had already been assessed a technical foul and any retaliation by Cousins could well have resulted in his ejection. The Kings big man kept his cool. The officials in New Jersey reviewed the play and Hield’s actions were ruled a Flagrant 2 foul which resulted in an automatic ejection.
Who knows how the game would have turned out had Hield still been on the floor in the fourth quarter?
Night of Technical Fouls
The officiating crew felt free to pass out “tech fouls” in the game on Sunday night. They issued three:
- Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry picked up the first “tech” just 2:11 into the game when he let the officials know he felt DeMarcus Cousins should have been called for a foul on a play that resulted in two points for Sacramento.
- Cousins picked up his 17th technical foul of the season with 1:06 to go in the first quarter when he tangled up with Donatas Motiejunas under the Pelicans basket. The play was reviewed to see if it was a flagrant foul which it was ruled not to be. If Cousins is assessed tech foul number 18, he will be suspended for another game under NBA rules since he is over the 16-tech foul limit.
- New Orleans was charged with a technical for a 3-second defensive violation in the first quarter.
In this writers opinion, the Gentry call was a quick trigger and the Cousins “tech” is a candidate to be rescinded. Also, the NBA needs to review the use of “the Tech” and decide what its purpose really is in the structure of the game. “The Association” also needs to grasp that fans do not come to an arena to watch refs call tech fouls.
The Kings will play the first of their two road games in the month of February on Tuesday in Los Angeles when they face the Lakers. This is another must win game for the Kings. The Lakers are a lower level “Tier 3” team that Kings have to beat if they are to jump into the eighth and final playoff slot.
The Pelicans travel to the Valley of the Sun to face the Suns on Monday night.