Photo credit: Sergio Estrada USA Today
Charlie O. Mallonee
Sacramento – Thursday night had all the pomp and circumstance of a Hollywood premiere as the long awaited official opening of the NBA home season took place for the Sacramento Kings. The NBA commissioner was there along with the former commissioner David Stern who sat with Governor Jerry Brown. Out-going mayor Kevin Johnson received his standing ovation for his efforts to build the arena. In-coming mayor Darrell Steinberg and members of the city council managed to get some face time.
Former Kings player Chris Webber and Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker were seated courtside. If you were anybody in Sacramento or thought you were anybody, you were in the Golden 1 Center for the game on Thursday night.
DeMarcus Cousins officially welcomed the fans to arena on behalf of the team. Majority owner Vivek Ranadive took great pride in welcoming fans to the state of the art arena the ownership group promised them when they bought the team.
The opening was really something to see. If you missed it, you can go to Kings.com and take in the highlights. It will be worth your time.
Then, there was the game between the unbeaten San Antonio Spurs who shocked the Golden Stated Warriors on Tuesday night in Oakland and the 1-0 Sacramento Kings who dominated the Phoenix Suns on the road in their season opener on Wednesday night.
The Kings knew they would be in for a fight because they had to face the team that is picked to win the Southwest Division – even without Tim Duncan- on second half of a back-to-back, away-home schedule. Even though the team was full of adrenaline to do well in front of their faithful fans at the opening of the Golden 1 Center, the task before for them was a difficult one at best.
The Kings played with tenacity and gave the crowd cause to cheer often,but ultimately the talent of Spurs and the fatigue of the back-to-back games caught up to them in their pursuit of a win. The Spurs defeated the Kings 102-94 in first ever regular season NBA game in the Golden 1 Center.
DeMarcus Cousins led the attack for the Kings against the Spurs. He scored 37 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to record a double-double in the game. Cousins shot 10-for-22 from the floor, 3-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc and went 14-for-16 from the free throw line. The Kings big man spent much of the second-half under the basket involved in a very physical battle with LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio front line. At times, Cousins temper seemed to be very close to boiling over, but he managed to keep it in check.
Rudy Gay had to do battle with Kawhi Leonard all night. Gay finished the game with 17 points with 10 of those points coming at the free throw line. He hauled 7 rebounds, had two steals and two assists as well.
Ben McLemore finished with 10 points in the contest. His best efforts came in the first-half. McLemore shot 3-for-4 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Unfortunately for him, it will probably be back-to-back turnovers that resulted in back-to-back personal fouls in the fourth quarter that many of the fans will remember.
Ty Lawson did his job at point guard for the Kings. Head coach Dave Joerger had said that Lawson would see heavy minutes of playing time and he worked 35 minutes on the floor versus the Spurs. Lawson dished out nine assists and turned the ball over just one time. Lawson added seven points, four rebounds and one steal.
Kosta Koufos scored eight, Arron Afflalo seven, Matt Barnes and Willie Cauley-Stein three points each and Anthony Tolliver had two points.
As a team, the Kings shot 40.0-percent (28-for-70) from the floor after shooting 51.4-percent in the first-half. They went 6-for-20 (30.0-percent) from beyond the 3-point line while going 32-for-38 (84.2-percent) from the free throw line. They matched the Spurs by grabbing 40 rebounds. The Kings tallied 22 assists against 15 turnovers.
To no one’s surprise, Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs scoring against the Kings. Leonard scored 30 points shooting an impressive 11-for-21 from the floor. He was a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Leonard also distributed five assists and recorded five steals. He played the last half of the fourth quarter with five personal fouls but it did not seem to slow him down.
LaMarcus Aldridge – the supposed discontented member of the Spurs who wants to be traded – added 16 points and five rebounds while giving DeMarcus Cousins fits under the basket for the entire game. Aldridge played hard and did not give off any signals that he was a player who wanted to be in another uniform.
Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee both had an impact in the game off the bench with 12 points each. Dedmon also had seven rebounds while Lee dished out two assists and had two steals.
San Antonio shot 45.6-percent (36-for-79) from the floor and 33.3-percent (6-for-18) from 3-point land. The Spurs went 24-for-27 from the charity stripe. They recorded 40 rebounds, 23 assists and 10 assists. The Spurs turned the ball over nine times.
What they had to say after the game
“Good game, good effort,” said Kings head coach Dave Joerger. “As competitors, you never want to say you played hard but you lost. But I liked a lot of the things I saw tonight. I thought we ran out of gas a bit. I think out turnovers were deadly and I think they made some tough, tough shots down the stretch. I thought our half-court defense was very solid. When our defense was on the run after turnovers, it’s very difficult to get back and defend.”
“Yeah, it was a big night for everybody. Us, playing in front of the fans and for the fans. This is a lot – this is a new era of basketball in Sacramento and it was good to be a part of it,” said Kings forward Rudy Gay. “Obviously the fans drive us to a new level. This was a playoff atmosphere and it’s good to have that.”
“Coach Joerger is a hell of a coach,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “He’s got them playing defense already after one game because of the way they played defense in Memphis. That’s because he knows what he’s doing, obviously. But, that’s a tribute to those guys to pick that up and jump in. If they sustain that, that’s going to be a good basketball team. You can see his stamp all over it defensively.”
The first home game at Golden 1 Center was a sellout with 17,608 in attendance.
The Kings next opponent is the Minnesota Timberwoles on Saturday night at 7:30 PM at the Golden 1 Center.
The Spurs will have their home opener on Saturday night when they host New Orleans.