by Charlie O. Mallonee
Sacramento — The Kings had the unenviable task of taking on LeBron James and the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night on their homecourt. The Cavs came into the game losers of two consecutive games and they were not looking to make it a three game losing streak. Cleveland did win the game 120-108 but after making look like they would just runaway with it in the first half, the Cavs found out the Kings have some fight in them this season as they made a battle of it in the second half.
The Kings (16-23) ran into trouble early as DeMarcus Cousins picked up two personal fouls in the first quarter and had to go to the bench with 4:18 remaining the period . The Cavaliers took advantage of the Kings big man being off the floor and ripped off 10 quick points to take a 32-15 lead into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, Kings head coach Dave Joerger took a big chance when he returned Cousins to the floor with 9:52 remaining because the Cavaliers were threatening to run away with the game. The move had the desired affect as Cleveland outscored the Kings just 29-28 in the period behind Cousins’ 11 points. Even more importantly, the Kings center did not pick up another foul in the quarter. At the half, Cleveland led Sacramento 61-43 but there appeared to be a pivot in the game. Frankly, the Cavs seemed to lose focus and possibly interest in the game late in the second quarter.
After halftime, the Kings picked up where they left off in the first half. In the third quarter, it was Rudy Gay who picked up the offense scoring 11 points (4-for-6 shooting, 1 3-pointer, 2-of-3 free throws). Cousins had only three points in the quarter but had four assists as the team ran the ball through him on the high-post. Sacramento outscored the Cavaliers 31-23 in the third. The Kings shot 70.6-percent (12-for-17) from the field and hit 4-of-5 (80-percent) 3-pointers in the period. After three quarters, the Cavaliers led the Kings 84-74.
What the Kings needed in the fourth quarter was a run of 10 to 12 unanswered points. It looked like that was going to happen early in the quarter when Sacramento went on a 6-0 run and cut the Cleveland (29-10) lead to just six points. But, that was as close as the Kings would come to regaining the lead. Ty Lawson scored 13 in period for the Kings while Kyle Korver led the Cavs with eight points. When the final buzzer sounded, the Cavaliers had won the game 120-108.
The Kings Dave Joerger was a proud coach
“Good game – proud of our guys. We got off to a slow start. We didn’t make a lot of shots in the first half and we turned the basketball over 14 times, so they were able to get out and run. I had them for 24 fast break points in the first half. They ended up with 24. We cut it down in the second half a little bit. I’m happy about how we battled. We got three stops in a row 11 times which we haven’t done for a long time. And, we fought like crazy. They’re a good team. They present a plethora of problems to solve and that was a good experience for our guys and I was happy that we kept battling.
Stars of the game
- Kings – While there were others with bigger numbers, no player had any more important stats than guard Ty Lawson. Lawson scored 17 points in the game and shot an impressive 7-for-10 from the floor. But what was really impressive about his scoring was that 13 of those 17 points were scored in the fourth quarter. Lawson shot 5-for-6 in final period. He played like a man possessed. A man who wanted to win the game.
- Cavaliers – Again there were other players with larger numbers but Kyle Korver and his 18 points really stood out in the game. Korver was playing in just his third game for Cleveland since being traded from Atlanta. He had not even been able to have a full practice with the team before beginning to play for them. Kover did have the opportunity to participate in a shootaround on Friday morning and it looked like it paid off. Korver shot 7-for-10 from the field while hitting 4-of-6 from “downtown”. He also recorded five rebounds (1 offensive), two assists and two steals in the game.
- Kings – DeMarcus Cousins posted maybe his most impressive double-double of the season. The big man scored 26 points and dished out 11 assists. The Kings made a nice adjustment against the Cleveland defense and started running the ball through Cousins on the high-post. When his teammates were moving to open space, Cousins was finding them and setting them up to score. Former Kings head coach George Karl who we know was not a big Cousins fan on many levels, called the center the best passer on the Kings multiple times last season. It seems Karl got at least one thing right.
- Cavaliers – Iman Shumpert finished the game with 16 points for Cleveland, but he did his real damage in the first quarter. The talented guard went a perfect 3-for-3 (all 3-pointers) from the floor in the opening period. Those nine points helped to propel the Cavs out to a 32-15 lead that ultimately the Kings would never be able to overcome in the game.
Other key players
- Kings – Rudy Gay 23 points and 10 rebounds (5 offensive); Darren Collison 13 points and four assists; Matt Barnes eight points and five rebounds in 17-minutes on the floor (his coach said in retrospect he should have probably played Barnes more).
- Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving 26 points (10-for-22 shooting); LeBron James 16 points and 15 assists ( how’s that for a double-double?); Kevin Love 15 points and 18 rebounds.
The numbers game
- Both teams shot over 50-percent from the floor: Cleveland 50.6-percent (44-for-87) Sacramento 52.5-percent (42-for-80)
- There were 24 3-point baskets made in the game. The Kings shot a very nice 9-for-25 (36-percent) from beyond the arc. The Cavs made it rain as they hit 15-of-37 (40.5-percent) from downtown as teams continue to burn the Kings from beyond the 3-point line
- The Kings out-rebounded the Cavaliers 42-39. They also were slightly better on the offensive glass grabbing 11 to the Cavs 10
- Turnovers were a big problem for Sacramento in the first half as they committed 14 of their 21 miscues in the first 24 minutes. The Kings turned the ball over 21 times which resulted in 26 points for the Cavaliers. Cleveland took better care of the ball turning itover just 12 times but the TOVs did turn into 20 points for Sacramento.
Up next on the schedule
The Kings will be back on the floor on Sunday when they host Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Golden 1 Center. The Kings beat the Thunder in Sacramento back in November 116-101 behind a 36 point effort from DeMarcus Cousins. Westbrook scored 31 for the Thunder in that contest. The game on Sunday night tips off at 6 p.m.
The Cavaliers are off until Monday when they will play their archrivals the Golden State Warriors in Oakland in a nationally televised game.