CK Press Box Report: Sacramento Kings 90, Denver Nuggets 88

by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

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Sleep Train Arena was a sea of purple as the Kings officially began a new era. An era free of relocation threats, binding agreements and non-refundable deposits.

Powered by the energy of 17,317 roaring fans, the Kings pulled off a 90-88 victory over the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night.  The win was just the icing on the cake for a fanbase that finally got to enjoy a game of basketball free from any distractions.

“The fans were incredible,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who finished with a dominant 30-point, 14-rebound performance, said after tonight’s game.  “They really helped us get through this game tonight.  I don’t think we would’ve gotten this win without them.  Like I said, they were incredible.  They really helped us.”

With less than a minute remaining in the game, the Kings found themselves squared even, 88-88, with the Nuggets.  The Kings set up up a post play for Cousins, who established deep position in the paint for a good, 7-foot look.  He missed, but teammate Jason Thompson was there to clean up the mess with a thunderous put-back dunk.

“Cousins was being aggressive like he was all game, and then I just made an aggressive energy play,” the sixth-year veteran said of his jam to put the Kings up 90-88.  “It just so happened to be the game-winner.”

After the game, Kings coach Michael Malone noted how pleased he was to get tonight’s victory for this evening’s sell-out crowd.

“I was happy that we could do this for our fans,” Malone said following his first career coaching victory.  “It was an unbelievable atmosphere in the building tonight, and it was great for us to go out there and play well in spurts.”

The Kings move to 1-0 on the season.  They have Thursday off then get back to action Friday when they host the Los Angeles Clippers.

Notes and Analysis

  • DeMarcus Cousins owned the Nuggets frontline tonight, finishing with 30 points and 14 rebounds in 39 minutes of action.  JaVale McGee played just 10 minutes due to foul trouble, leaving Timofey Mozgov and J.J. Hickson to slow the Kings budding star.  Cousins contributed on both sides of the ball and retained his composure in a hard-fought ball game.
  • Greivis Vasquez didn’t post big assist numbers, but he did score 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting tonight as the Kings’ starting point guard.  Coach Malone used a ton of three-guard sets, using both Isaiah Thomas and Vasquez in the backcourt together for long stretches.  The duo looked good together, and we will probably see a lot more of that combination this season.
  • Thomas started off slow, but caught fire in the fourth, scoring eight of his 16 in the final frame.  He added five assists and four rebounds in 29 minutes off the Kings bench.
  • Coach Malone waited all night to get production out of forward Jason Thompson, and his prayers were answered in the final 42 seconds.  After a rough start, Thompson hammered home a two-handed put-back that gave the Kings the 90-88 victory.  Thompson can’t be happy about losing his starting job to Patrick Patterson, but most players would rather finish a game than start one.
  • Rookie Ben McLemore looked confident and strong in his first NBA game.  The 20-year-old from St. Louis finished just 1-for-7 from the field, but took open looks and went aggressively to the rim.  His shots will fall eventually and when they do, the Kings are going to have a very nice weapon.
  • Marcus Thornton had similar numbers to McLemore, but the veteran looked lost and disengaged for much of the game.  McLemore is knocking on the door and a few more four-point games on 1-for-6 shooting from Thornton will speed up the transition to the rookie.
  • Chuck Hayes tweaked his left ankle and had it heavily wrapped in ice after the game.  There is no word yet on his availability for Friday’s match-up against the Clippers.
  • The Sleep Train Arena crowd was filled with stars Wednesday evening.  But the two biggest in attendance were NBA commissioner David Stern and new minority owner Shaquille O’Neal.  And no, Stern was not wearing a purple tie tonight.
  • Stat of the Night: The Kings’ 15-1 record in home openers since 1998-99 is the best mark in the NBA, according to STATS LLC.

Quote of the Game

Isaiah Thomas on DeMarcus Cousins:

He’s just one of the best big men in the league – that’s what you expect from him.  He’s talented.  He’s not going and once he gets low, he’s kind of unstoppable and he got low.  I think his best move was a missed jump hook though he got right in there, he missed it, but he wanted it back.  Coach said, ‘Do you want it Isaiah?’  I was like, “No, let’s give it to the big fella.”  I asked him if he wanted it and he said, ‘Yeah, I got it,’ and he scored the next play.  So he’s somebody we trust, and he’s a hell of a player.

Video shot and edited by Kimani David.

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