SACRAMENTO -- There was no question who fielded a more talented team Friday night at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings faced off with the Denver Nuggets, an inexperienced but exciting team that plays hard for 48 minutes. But they are young and have plenty to learn.
But like so many other nights this season, Sacramento played to the level of their competition and almost got beat. The final box scores shows a 116-110 victory for the Kings, but it was closer than that. It always is. Nothing comes easy for the Sacramento Kings.
In front of a sellout crowd, the Kings played sloppy on the offensive end, turning the ball over 22 times. Denver took full advantage of the Kings miscues, converting the mistakes into 34 points, many of which came on the break.
“We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” DeMarcus Cousins said following the win. “I think we kept them in game just by some of our mistakes.”
Cousins led the Kings with six turnovers, but like most nights, you take the good with the bad.
Nine of the ten Kings players that took the floor committed a turnover, including four each from Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay.
“I’m open for suggestions,” a perplexed George Karl said following the game. “I’ve kind of expressed to them in a thousand ways. The pace in how we play is probably going to create a degree more in turnovers. I just think we have to trust the easy play, the solid play and not try to make the difficult play all the time.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Kings hang on to beat Malone's Nuggets]
Outside of the turnover issues, Cousins played to his All-Star billing. The Kings star big finished the night with 37 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks. He shot 12-for-20 from the field and kept the entire Nuggets frontline in foul trouble from the first quarter on.
“When I was here, I posted Cuz up all the time and they haven’t posted him up a lot,” Denver coach Malone said following the game. “Tonight they went to him in the post all night long and we had no answer for him.”
You knew coming in that Malone would have his team ready. Fired by Kings ownership in December of 2014, Malone would have loved nothing more than to leap over his former club in the standings in his first trip back to Sacramento.
Unfortunately for Malone, the Kings big guns came out firing. With Cousins destroying the Nuggets in the post, Rondo and Gay took turns bombing from the outside in the first half. The duo finished the first half a combined 8-of-9 from behind the arc and the lanes opened up for Cousins to work.
“It was pretty good,” Cousins said with a smile. “I don’t think it lasted too long, but that little stint of being able to breath was a good feeling, I could get used to.”
Gay finished the night with 24 points, three rebounds and three steals. Rondo barely missed a triple-double, dropping in 24 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and five steals. He sent a ball to Ben McLemore that resulted in a last second lay-up. It could be reviewed by the league after the fact and result in another assist.
With the stars shining in the first unit, reserve point guard Darren Collison continued his hot streak. The veteran dropped in 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting and picked up a pair of steals in 33 minutes off the bench.
“I’m just being aggressive,” Collison said. “I think right now is a very important stretch. For me personally, I’m just trying to get out there and really step it up and take it to another level.”
The Kings travel to Denver to face the Nuggets again on Tuesday evening. They have three days to work on their defensive strategies and try to cut down on their turnover issues before facing a team that is just 11-15 on their home floor this season.