by Michael Martinez
picture credit Google Images
After breaking down in the 4th quarter against the Washington Wizards this past Monday, the Kings looked to go .500 on their 4 game road trip. The Kings looked solid in the first half, but a dismal 3rd quarter performance by the team pushed momentum into the Indiana Pacers favor. The 4th quarter turned out to be a doozy and the Kings were able to close out the game, proving they are slowly figuring out how to finish albeit in ugly fashion. Although the Kings were a bit careless with the ball, the Kings picked up the win over the Pacers, 108-106. The Kings passed the ball well, out rebounded the Pacers and scored in the paint at will to pick up the victory.
With the 1st quarter underway, The Kings started the scoring with Rajon Rondo getting the ball inside to DeMarcus Cousins for a nice catch and finish. The team was a bit sloppy early on and that led to the Pacers going on a 10-4 run to start the game. The Kings regained the momentum, coming out of the time out and Rondo had a terrific quarter passing the ball. Rondo totaled 8 assists in the quarter and scored 9 points on 4-6 shooting. Rondo highlighted the quarter as he through a smooth bounce pass between 3 Pacers defenders to Ben McLemore for a lay up. There was a scary moment in the quarter when Cousins fell on top of McLemore on the defensive end after contesting a shot, but both players continued to play. Rondo also had a sweet assist to Collison on a fast break opportunity. Rondo was the high scorer for the team who went 14-25 from the field, shooting 56%. The high percentage came off of 28 points in the paint to the Pacers 6. The Pacers stayed in the game thanks to George Hill who shot 4-6 from the field, 3-4 from 3 point range and totaled 11 points for the quarter high. The Kings did outscored the Pacers, 30-27, in the first quarter with Rondo filling up the stat sheet early on.
The 2nd quarter got underway with Marco Belinelli hitting a jumper. Darren Collison followed it up with a jumper of his own and Omri Casspi nailed a 3 pointer as the Kings went up by 8 early in the quarter. The Kings started doing a much better job on the defensive end by holding the Pacers to a shooting percentage of 34.8% and Collison had a terrific quarter off the bench. The Kings guard put up 13 points on 6-7 shooting. The guard finished the half with 15 points, 7-9 from the field, adding 2 assists. The Kings continued crashing the boards hard, with 18 rebounds in the quarter and 31 in the half. Big Cous attacked the hoop hard and went 5-6 from the charity strip, 3-6 from the field and had 11 points in the 2nd, 18 for the half with 12 rebounds. Rondo also had a double-double at the half, 11 points and 10 assists. After Cousins was called for a blocking foul which appeared to be a charge, Coach George Karl was visibly frustrated. Karl did not blow his top off until he saw Rudy Gay get sandwiched between two Pacers and not get a foul call. Karl picked up a technical foul but the tech was justifiable. The officiating was poor in the quarter and for most of the game. With great passing and ball movement, 16 assists in the half, the Kings were able to score with ease on the offensive end. With the first half over, the Kings led the Pacers by 15, 64-49.
After an awesome 2nd quarter and good first half, the Kings wanted to keep their offense flowing; however the Pacers seemed to find the Kings juju. The Kings played very poorly and only scored 20 points in the quarter. The Pacers got off to a 7-0 run to start the quarter. The Kings played very sloppy, turning the ball over 7 times and the Pacers took advantage. The Pacers scored 14 points off those turnovers. The team defense was being broken down and the Pacers got plenty of good looks leading to a 16-5 run in less than 4 minutes of play. After scoring in the paint with ease, the Kings lost control of the ball and only scored 12 points in the paint. Their defense suffered from their poor offense and the 3rd was incredibly forgettable for the team, although they shot 50%. The Pacers scored 33 in the quarter on 13-22 shooting. Rudy Gay had a team high in the quarter with 7 points, 15 in all 3. Rondo added 4 assists in the quarter, 13 points and 14 assists in the first 3 quarters but also 7 turnovers. Cousins had 23 points with 14 rebounds and Collison totaled 19. Luckily for the Kings, they out rebounded the Pacers, 40-29, and that helped them hold a 2 point lead to end the quarter. Monte Ellis and Hill helped cut the score in the quarter, with 17 and 18 points respectively through the 3 quarters. After 36 minutes the Kings stayed up, 84-82, over the Pacers after leading by 15 at the half.
After letting the Pacers get back into a game that the Kings thought they could easily win, the 4th quarter would be extremely important. Seth Curry started the quarter for Rondo and he gave a great defensive spark. On one defensive possession, Curry knocked the ball loose but came up short and swiped it away the second time. The steal led to Casspi picking it up, tossing it to Collison up ahead who got it back to Casspi for an alley-oop after Casspi filled the middle lane really well. The Kings started to get a little sloppy with the ball again and their turnovers helped the Pacers keep it close. CJ Miles hit a 3 in the quarter to cut the lead to 1, but Collison answered with a 3 of his own. The Kings left a lot of Pacers players open on defensive possessions including Ellis who hit a 3 pointer to give the Pacers their first lead since the 1st quarter. The Pacers went up by 2 but Gay came down the floor to hit a jumper of his own. Cousins then got to the line to give the Kings a 2 point lead with a minute left. The game really came down to the wire, but Paul George’s struggles helped the Kings close it out. George missed a shot that gave the Kings a chance to go up by 2 possessions, however the team could not capitalize. With 8 seconds left to play, the Pacers drew up a play to get the ball in George’s hands. George got a decent look, contested by Gay, that did not fall. The Kings prevailed over the Pacers, 108-106. Casspi had a good 4th with 9 points in the quarter and the Kings shot well once again, 55.6%, 10-18 from the field. The team continued assisting the ball and finding a way to crash the boards as well to pull out a much needed victory.
The Kings 3 point shooting was non-existent in the game, 4-23 behind the arc, but the team found a way to win in big part to their passing and attacking of the rim. The team finished with 64 points in the paint, 49 rebounds and 28 assists. Collision was a huge boost off the bench with 24 points and 5 assists as he used his explosiveness to get good looks. Cousins had a tremendous game, 25 points and 16 rebounds as he helped the Kings on the glass. Gay finished with 17 points and Casspi added a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Rondo did not score in the 4th, finishing with 13 points but totaled 16 assists. Cousins and Rondo’s double-doubles were both their 14th of the season. The Kings finished with a 51.7% shooting percentage which is pretty impressive given they missed 19 three point attempts. The team closed out a game that should not have been close but the turnovers kept the Pacers in it.
As the night concluded, Rondo was the fastest player in the Sacramento era to reach 300 assists. Cousins is looking more like his early season self as he keeps his season scoring around 24-25 points per game. Big Cous has been dominant in the paint and the Kings are doing a great job of exploiting that on other teams. The Kings have dominated the paint against their opponents all season and Rondo’s elite passing ability has made them a huge offensive threat. The Kings need to take care of the ball more and close out on defenders as they have continuously given wide open shots to their opponents. The Kings gave fans an early Christmas present with the victory, even though they also almost gave everyone a heart attack as well. The Kings are now 12-17 and will take on the 11-20 Portland Trailblazers at home. For Christmas, all Kings fans want is for the team to continue winning and find their way into a playoff spot. Happy Holidays!