SACRAMENTO -- With the pressure of making the playoffs gone, the Sacramento Kings are finding their game. On Wednesday night it was the Washington Wizards who strolled into Sleep Train Arena expecting the Kings to roll over and play dead.
The Wizards walked away wondering what hit them as Sacramento put on a show for the its home crowd on the way to a 120-111 victory.
The final score wasn’t indicative of the true outcome of the game. Washington scored seven points in the final seven seconds to make a 16-point blowout look like a single-digit defeat.
DeMarcus Cousins dominated from the opening tip, posting his 47th double-double of season, but he wasn’t a one man band. The Kings bench showed up in force, specifically in the third and fourth quarters when the game was still undecided.
“The bench was great,” George Karl said following the game. “I mean, this is the DC (Darren Collison), Kosta Koufos and an Omri Casspi game. I thought our transition defense was much improved after the 1st quarter and our offense had flow to it. Everybody had a little piece of it.”
Collison scored 13 points and handed out 10 assists in 31 minutes off the bench. Casspi finished the night with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and he added eight rebounds and Koufos went 5-of-5 on the night, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the final quarter.
“We just took advantage of their second unit –- we’ve got good players off the bench for us that have been playing well all season long,” Collison said. “Tonight it was our game where we had it going.”
Sacramento's bench outscored Washington's 49-34, including a 25-12 advantage in the fourth quarter.
With the win the Kings improved to 30-45, giving them their first 30-win season since the 2007-08 season when the went 38-44 under coach Reggie Theus.
“I’m happy the Sacramento fans have got 30 wins, happy for them,” Karl said. “The fans here are incredible. Their loyalty, their love for this team and the appreciation of having this team in the city of Sacramento is unbelievable. It’s Green Bay-like, it’s Oklahoma City-like, it’s a special small town. I’m happy at least they can feel somewhat rewarded by a kind of up-and-down crazy year, from the standpoint of the numbers, shows improvement.”
With seven games remaining the Kings have not been officially eliminated from the playoff picture, but it’s close. It could come at anytime with a combination of one more loss or a win by either Houston or Utah. It’s another season of ‘what could have been’ for the Kings.
“You know the potential that we have on this team, the talent -– we have so many good players on this team depth-wise it’s almost scary that, what could we have done if we had been a little more consistent,” Collison said. “I think it irks the fans, it irks the coaching staff, it irks us. But that’s what good teams do -– they build off their first year together and they come back stronger the next year.”
With another disappointing season, changes are on the horizon for the Kings. But the core group of players on the roster might be around next season to build off this year’s win total.
COSTLY CALL ON COUSINS
Everything was going so well. The Sacramento Kings had built an insurmountable 120-106 lead with 6.7 seconds remaining and then disaster struck.
After a made bucket by the Wizards Kelly Oubre, Mark Davis, the furthest official from the play, called Rajon Rondo for a turnover on the inbounds play. Rondo, along with DeMarcus Cousins began clapping at the call and Davis immediately hit both players with a technical foul.
While Cousins stood in awe, Rondo got his money's worth, drawing a second technical and hitting the showers 6.7 seconds earlier than his teammates.
“If I say something, I’m punished, if I don’t say something, I’m punished,” Cousins said after the game. “I don’t really know what the answer is anymore.”
The incident is likely to be reviewed by the league, but if the technical foul on Cousins isn’t overturned, he will miss Friday night’s home game with his 16th infraction of the season.
“I don’t understand how he can make that call,” Rondo said. “There’s two refs standing beside me and it seemed like deja vu, because the last time, again, the cross-court, the official farthest from the court made the call.”
“Sometimes the game isn’t about the players on the court, it’s about 'fill in the blank',” Rondo added.
Rondo was clear after the mics were shut off that if anyone was to blame it was him. While Cousins was clapping as well, it was Rondo who was standing front and center for another controversy with an official.
The game was decided when the initial infraction was called by Davis. While Cousins and Rondo may have violated an NBA rule by clapping, which would fall under the “overt actions indicating resentment to a call,” this situation was almost entirely instigated by a league official.
Cousins had already drawn $45,000 worth of fines for his first 15 technicals. The 16th tech pushes that number to $50,000, plus a game check, which will makes this a mistake a costly one to say the least.