Sacramento Kings Monday game wrap: Collison’s steady hand lifts Kings 91-90

March 27, 2017

NBA, Sacramento Kings

Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) breaks away for a dunk against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, March. 27, 2017. The Kings won 91-90. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

By Jeremy Harness

SACRAMENTO – Things were going very smoothly for Darren Collison and the rest of his Kings teammates going into the fourth quarter, but the wheels started to fall off in the final minutes and allowed the bigger, more intimidating SUV that is the Memphis Grizzlies to get back in to the game and take the lead.

However, Collison did not back off and continued to attack, and after Sacramento lost the lead in the final minute, he went to the basket and forced the Grizzlies to foul him. He then knocked down two free throws with 5.7 seconds left to give the Kings a 91-90 win Monday night at the Golden 1 Center.

It was the Kings’ second win against a playoff-bound team in as many days, a night after knocking off the Los Angeles Clippers in another game that came down to the final possession. This can be seen as a young team passing a major test in its development into the playoff team that it aspires to be.

Collison, who has arguably been the Kings’ steadiest player in the past month, got the better of his head-to-head matchup with his point-guard counterpart in Mike Conley – who just happens to be the NBA’s highest-paid player – scoring 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with seven assists and four rebounds, while Conley had 22 but went 8-for-23 from the field to do it.

To do so, Collison continually came off of high screens and pulled up for midrange jumpers – which he seemed to have down for three quarters – or making quick darts to the basket for nifty layups, the exact moves that he was seen rehearsing in the hour leading up to Monday’s game.

In fact, he only missed one of his nine shots for that timeframe, and the Kings were in control of the game.

In the fourth quarter, however, things swung heavily in the other direction. The shots that poured in during the first three quarters began to bounce off the rim in the fourth, allowing the more physical, playoff-tested Grizzlies to use their style to get right back into the game.

Even Collison couldn’t find the basket in the final minutes. Leading by one with less than a minute left, for instance, the Kings had the ball and ran a high screen for Collison, but he missed the elbow jumper that had served him well for three quarters.

Sacramento secured the offensive rebound, but Anthony Tolliver then missed an open 3-pointer. Memphis then grabbed the rebound and forced a foul on the other end, and when Zach Randolph sank a pair of free throws as part of his 17 points and 15 rebounds, the Kings had lost the lead for the first time in the quarter.

The Kings, however, would have the final say, thanks to Collison.

Sacramento controlled the action for much of the first quarter, as the team was jump-started by the early hot shooting by Buddy Hield, who nailed a pair of threes to put Sacramento ahead. Hield finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting and also grabbed four rebounds.

The Kings also edged the Grizzlies from the free-throw line, drawing six fouls on Memphis in the first quarter and making all but one of their nine free throws.

They found themselves leading 51-49 at the half, and after Memphis took the lead early in the third quarter, Collison seized control of the game and keyed a surge that saw the Kings leading by as many as nine. He scored seven points and hit all three of his shots in the quarter, and when he wasn’t putting it in the basket himself, he was finding teammates such as Garrett Temple and Willie Cauley-Stein for wide-open threes and alley-oops.

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