The Kings were dead in the water Wednesday night in Philadelphia. They lacked energy, intensity and passion through 24 minutes of basketball, surrendering 63 first half points to a Sixers team that came into the night averaging less than 95 points a game.
Just hours removed from a coaching reprieve, George Karl turned to Quincy Acy and James Anderson off the bench to start the third quarter. The veteran coach needed a lift, and that is exactly what he got, especially from Acy.
“I mean that’s just staying ready when my number’s called,” Acy said following the game. “Just come out there and do what I’m called to do. That’s just provide a spark any way I can.”
Riding Acy’s exuberance and grit, the Kings made a comeback against the league’s worst team. Trailing by 12 to start the fourth quarter, Sacramento outscored Philly 39-23 in the fourth to snap their four-game losing streak and head into the All-Star break with a 114-110 victory under their belt.
“Quincy, that’s our heartbeat,” DeMarcus Cousins said following the game. “He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, doesn’t get the playing time he deserves. Everybody in this locker room respects that guy. We know he’s going to bring it every second he’s in the game. I’m glad to have him on my team”
The 25-year-old’s stats don’t jump off the page. He finished the night with just six points, four rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes, but his impact in the game was huge.
Cousins wasn’t the only one to acknowledge the play of Acy. In fact, it was a common theme coming out of the locker room.
“I thought his energy gave us a big spark, we needed it, we needed energy in this game,” point guard Darren Collison said of Acy. “They were playing hard all first half and it seemed like we were just a little bit lethargic at the beginning of the game. I thought Q did a good job of giving us some energy and we fed off that.”
Acy wasn’t the only big-time player in this game. Cousins posted a quiet 28-point, 12-rebound, five-assist night. Rudy Gay kept the team from getting blown out early, dropping in 13 of his 22 points in the second half. Rajon Rondo posted another full line, finishing with 14 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds as the team improved to 22-31 on the season.
Not to be left out of the conversation, Collison continued his hot streak. With the team scuffling, Collison has been one of the few constants. The veteran point guard scored 13 of the team’s 39 fourth quarter points, hitting all four of his shots, including two huge 3-pointers in crunch time.
“Darren Collison and Quincy Acy, I thought they were just magnificent,” Karl said. “Our life was very little energy so Quincy started the second half, had a great eight, nine minutes then. But Darren offensively was good the whole game and then, of course, making the threes, making the big shots was huge. Making the big free throws was huge.”
Collison finished the night with 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Despite the Kings’ struggles, Collison is averaging 18.6 points in the team’s last seven games off the bench. He has been a pro’s pro since joining the team a year-and-a-half ago, but his performance through tough times speaks volumes about his character.
“It’s frustrating as a player, it’s not the circumstances you want to deal with, but it’s part of the NBA,” Collison said. “Every player is going to have to deal with it at one point or another in their career. It’s how you deal with it. Adversity, everybody handles it different ways, but I thought this team has done a good job of handling it the best way possible. We stuck together and that’s all that matters.”
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After a brutal 2-8 stretch, the Kings have nine days off to lick their wounds and prepare for the post All-Star break sprint to the finish. They have fallen four and a half games behind both Portland and Utah who are currently tied for seventh in the Western Conference standings.
With just 29 games remaining in the season, the Kings will need to play flawless ball down the stretch if they have any chance of jumping back into the playoff conversation. The race to the finish begins a week from Friday when they face former head coach Michael Malone and his Denver Nuggets team twice in the span of four days.