CK Press Box Report: Kings make it four in a row

by James Ham and Rui Thomas

 

The Sacramento Kings are addicted to winning. On their home floor, the Kings blast the Denver Nuggets 131-109 to earn their first four-game winning streak since March 29, 2011.

“I just think guys are really trusting each other, they’re communicating with each other, they’re holding each other accountable, and it’s great to see,” lamented Michael Malone to an unusually large Sacramento media crowd.

The Kings raced out to a 40-19 first quarter lead on the shoulders of DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Both players started the game 4-for-4 and finished the quarter with 16 and 9 points respectively. Cousins finished the night with a monster statline of  30 points, 11 rebounds and two steals before fouling out early in the fourth, while Gay was not too shabby either, dropping in 29 points of his own.

The Nuggets clawed back to make it an eight-point game with 1:37 in the second quarter, but Michael Malone stuck to his game plan and pounded the paint. Sacramento’s physicality led to 39 points from the free throw line on 50 attempts. The Kings were relentless on the attack and also spaced the floor and finally produced results behind the arc. The home team made 8-of-20 triples, almost all on open looks.

Sacramento took excellent care of the ball, tying a season-high with 21 assists to 13 turnovers. Darren Collison again was the steady hand as he dished eight assists to no turnovers and disrupted Ty Lawson on 3-of-7 shooting.

Not coincidentally, Ben McLemore, Carl Landry and Omri Casspi all turned in their best showings of the season. McLemore finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and a few highlights on defense while Casspi hustled his way to 11 points and six rebounds. Landry scored 18 points and shot 10-of-10 from the free throw line.

“Anytime you get B-Mac going, and other guys step up and perform, it’s always a good thing,” noted Collison.

Denver struggled to find a rhythm as they shot 40.3 from the floor entering the fourth, while Randy Foye led the club in scoring with 19 points in 27 minutes. Lawson and Wilson Chandler scored 13 points apiece and Darrell Arthur added 11 points before fouling out in the third quarter.

The Kings now find themselves in unfamiliar territory. With winning comes a bullseye on their backs, and their response will be worth monitoring. The team will head back on the road to face Isaiah Thomas and the Phoenix Suns on Friday.

Notes and Analysis

  • DeMarcus Cousins couldn’t be stopped early.  The 24-year-old center tormented the Nuggets in the first half, scoring 26 points on 9-for-12 shooting and 8-of-9 from the line.  Cousins continued his strong play throughout, finishing with 30 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes before fouling out 28 seconds into the fourth quarter.  Denver threw double and triple-teams at him all game and Cousins embarrassed them.
  • Rudy Gay played Robin to Cousins’ Batman, torching Denver for 29 points in 36 minutes.  When these two are on, the Kings are hard to beat.  Like Cousins, Gay could have easily gone for 40 or more tonight.
  • When the Kings signed Omri Casspi in the offseason, it was almost an afterthought.  Through five games, he has become as valuable as any player Malone has off the bench.  Tonight against Denver, he dropped in 11 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.  Casspi is bringing energy, rebounding and scoring to a second unit that is struggling.
  • Collison continues to shine for the Kings.  With Gay and Cousins rolling, Collison took a back seat, finishing with 10 points, eight assists and zero turnovers.  Sessions continues to struggle and Malone needs every minute Collison can give him.
  • The starters made a concerted effort to get second-year shooting guard Ben McLemore going early.  The result was McLemore’s best game of the season.  After coming in with just five made baskets on the season, McLemore finished tonight’s game with a modest 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting.  He did solid work on the defensive end as well, holding Arron Afflalo to two points on 1-of-4 shooting.
  • Carl Landry continues to look solid in a reserve role for Sacramento.  The veteran forward scored 18 points tonight, on just six shots.  Landry’s shot distribution – 4-of-6 from the field and 10-for-10 from the line.  He added four rebounds in the win.
  • Stat of the Night: The Sacramento Kings are 4-1 on the season for the first time since November 7, 2001.

Quote of the Game

Michael Malone on the Kings being complacent

“I told them this morning we haven’t done a damn thing. We were 3-1, so I’m going to keep on telling them that. The season is young. To be 4-1 after five games is great, but we have a very demanding and difficult road trip coming up starting with Phoenix. So it’s a business trip, and no one is going to celebrate that Sacramento is 4-1 right now. We still have a lot of work to do. We can get better in a lot of areas.”

 

Video shot and edited by Kimani David

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