Despite playing short-handed, it appeared to be business as usual for the Miami Heat against the Sacramento Kings. From the jump, they outscored the Kings 32-19 and shot better than 61 percent from the field in the opening quarter.
However in the periods that followed, the Kings showed that they had other ideas in mind. From the second quarter and beyond, the Kings took the defending champs out of their element, holding the Heat below 40 percent from the field en route to a 106-102 overtime victory at home Friday evening.
“I want to give a lot of credit to our second unit,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said. “We started that game tonight by being down 17 points and our starting group didn’t have the best start in the world. The second unit came in and got us back in the game.”
The Kings’ defense reached its peak intensity after halftime. Sacramento held the defending champs to just 18 points and limited them to 27.8 percent from the field in the third quarter.
“I’ve been hoping for this for a while,” Malone said. “We just played this team a week ago. I know that they didn’t have three big players for them. But even with those guys sitting out, I thought that our players accepted the challenge.”
Their defense against LeBron James was particularly impressive Friday evening. The reigning Finals MVP finished with 33 points, but was held by the Kings to just three points in the third and fourth quarters combined.
“He’s a great player,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said of two-time champion. “But he’s not, I wouldn’t say, an aggressive scorer. So we really wanted to stop him from making plays and making the guys around him better. We ended up making those guys make plays.”
Kings small forward Rudy Gay took on the task of defending James for most of the night. Despite the effort he exerted on defense, keeping James out of his comfort zone, the 27-year-old veteran managed to score 20 of his 26 points after halftime and in the extra overtime period.
The game seemed to turn in the Kings’ favor in the final 1:30 of regulation. Trailing 89-85, Cousins drew a flagrant foul 1 from Heat point guard Mario Chalmers at the 1:19 mark of the fourth quarter. Cousins made the following two free throws and the Kings proceeded to score on the ensuing offensive possession. They turned to Gay, who went on to sink a turnaround jumper from the left elbow to tie the game at 89.
“Just be me,” Gay said of playing to his potential in Friday’s game. “I even thought about it – part of the reason why I’m here is because I am who I am. So just be me and try my hardest to continue to be me.”
The Kings move to 9-19 overall and 6-11 at home. They face another tough test on Sunday when they visit the Alamo City to take on the San Antonio Spurs.
Notes and Analysis
- Michael Malone and his team put the game in the hands of Rudy Gay down the stretch and the veteran wing didn’t disappoint. Gay played all 29 minutes of the second half and overtime, scoring 20 of his 26 after halftime, including the game-tying bucket in with just over a minute remaining.
- Miami did a nice job of facing up DeMarcus Cousins early, but eventually the Kings big man got it going. Cousins finished with another huge 27-point, 17-rebound, five assist night for Malone, but he teetered on the brink of destruction multiple times. Cousins tangled with LeBron, he took a shot from Mario Chalmers and he picked up his ninth technical foul of the season. But the Kings won, so we will focus on that.
- Isaiah Thomas continues to play well as the starter. The pint-size point guard nearly dropped in a triple-double tonight, finishing with 22 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in 41 minutes. Thomas went 3-of-7 from behind the arc and has now hit a long ball in 22-straight games.
- Sacramento had a major mismatch at power forward and when given a chance, Jason Thompson took full advantage. Shane Battier had no answer for Thompson, who finished with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting in 21 minutes. Thompson only grabbed three rebounds and he left Battier open in the corner for three corner 3′s, but he played a solid game for coach Malone.
- Quincy Acy is quickly becoming a fan favorite for his robust dunks. He reminds Kings fans of Michael “The Animal” Smith, from the mid-90’s. His energy is contagious and his two-handed hammer dunks bring the crowd to their feet. He scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds tonight in 15 minutes off the bench.
- Jimmer Fredette played well in his first-half stint, dishing out three assists in seven minutes before the break. After a horrific first quarter, Jimmer ran the second unit well and helped get the Kings back in the game. It’s strange to see zero points from Jimmer in the scoring column, but he gave his team exactly what they needed tonight.
- Stat of the Night: The Kings outscored the Heat 89-71 after the first quarter tonight and held Miami under 40 percent shooting during that stretch.
Quote of the Game
Michael Malone on attempting to stop DeMarcus Cousins from getting a technical in the fourth:
“I always want to protect my players and make sure that things don’t escalate. I didn’t want him, like what happened in the Clippers game, to get thrown out after a second technical. DeMarcus is way too important for this team and he has to understand that we need him down the stretch in these close games. He maintained his poise and composure and settled down a little bit. He is who he is, an emotional player, and he hates to lose. He came up with some huge plays tonight, not with just scoring, but with offensive and defensive rebounds. It was great to see that from him.”
Video shot and edited by Kimani David.