SACRAMENTO – Years later, the Sacramento Kings may have a new arena, a new roster – and maybe, just maybe, a few more wins.
The Kings (28-53) ended a five-game losing streak at the expense of the Minnesota Timberwolves (40-40) with the final score 106-103 on Sunday. Sacramento made familiar mistakes guarding the ball and trailed by as many as 11 points in the third quarter before the team buckled down and forced the visitors to shoot 32 percent in the fourth.
“We’re still a team trying to grow (and) find ourselves, and I think we took steps forward today,” reflected DeMarcus Cousins. “We’ve been in (these) situations a couple times this season. Sometimes it went well, sometimes it didn’t, but I think we did a pretty good job tonight handling the situation and overcoming adversity.”
The Kings were able to trounce big nights by Kevin Love (43 points, 11 rebounds) and Gorgui Dieng (21 points, 14 rebounds) in part to a monster of their own in Cousins. In 37 minutes, the center collected 35 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks, along with a feature-length highlight reel of dunks and crossovers.
Cousins’ dominant showing was spoiled, however, by his 16th technical foul of the season (his first since February 25), which if upheld would suspend him for the last game of the season.
“He should be proud of how he played tonight and the effort that he’s put in to being a better citizen on the court,” emphasized an understanding head coach Michael Malone.
Another hopeful sign was Ben McLemore’s performance, which totaled 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting (3-of-6 from deep) in addition to two blocks. His defense combined with Isaiah Thomas and Ray McCallum’s forced the Timberwolves’ starting backcourt to shoot 0-of-12 from the floor and backup J.J. Barea 2-of-11. McCallum went 5-for-9 from the field with 6 assists to 1 turnover to boot, which gives the Kings reason to think the “McRookies” can be consistent contributors moving forward.
“I’m happy we won tonight, and it’s great, but (what’s) more important to me is trying to improve and get better, and become a team that really embodies our identity,” Malone added. “Defending, rebounding, and valuing the ball, and sharing the ball.”
There’s times Malone’s vision is displayed by the Kings, and they’ll have one more chance this campaign to do so hosting the Phoenix Suns (47-33). Crushing a division rival’s playoff hopes would be another step towards constructing a winner.
Photo Credit: Ed Szczepanski / USA TODAY Sports