Two stellar performances, including the second career triple-double of DeMarcus Cousins’ career and a new career-high by James Harden, dominated a topsy turvy, and otherwise sloppy 115-111 Kings loss to the Rockets in Houston on Wednesday.
“I have a lot of respect for Houston, but I think we beat ourselves as much as they beat us,” Karl told the media in Houston. “We just had so many silly mistakes. We don’t value the possessions. Throughout the game, we ran away from two loose balls that were ours and we threw a couple of balls out of bounds. I don’t even know why. We had a great pace and a great attitude.
“Cousins was great and we were getting great fast breaks, penetrations, back doors. We had a lot of rhythm to our offense. We just gave them twenty seven points off our turnovers and that’s too big a number.”
The Kings' (26-48) propensity for turnovers contributed to their demise, as well as allowing 18 3-pointers.
Cousins was stellar in defeat pouring in 24 points to go with 21 rebounds and 10 assists.
“I’ve never coached a guy that can put so many things into a game,” Karl added. “He has a triple double but he really has a quadruple double because he had six blocks, three steals and at least one or maybe two charges.
"There are another ten possessions that he gave us because of his defensive abilities. I still wish he’d get more respect from the referees. He took twenty five shots and at least a third of those were going to the basket and only shoots three free throws. I thought he did a good job of keeping his emotions under control.”
Harden and Cousins along with Rudy Gay, who was out on Wednesday due to a concussion sustained on Monday in Memphis, toiled together this offseason as part of Team USA’s World Cup gold medal effort.
That initiative is paying dividends according to the Kings first time All-Star center.
“Everybody that was a member of that team including myself, Steph (Curry), James (Harden), Klay (Thompson), DeMar (Derozan), a lot of guys learned a lot from that experience,” Cousins told reporters. “It helped out James in a lot of different ways.
“James is playing some unbelievable ball this season. I’m extremely happy for him. James is a tough guy to guard period, everybody knows that. I don’t think the word stop is a word you can use when you’re talking about James Harden.”
Harden reciprocated the respect.
“You’ve got to match his (Cousins’) energy,” Harden told reporters. “If he takes over the game . . . I’ve got to bring that same intensity to even it out. He’s a great player . . . I think our team did a great job of sticking with it for four quarters.”
The Kings head coach acknowledged “The Beard’s” big night.
“Harden had a great night,” Karl added. “We went to double teaming him a little more at the end and maybe we should have done that a little quicker.
“Harden has one of those games where every shot he took, he made. From twenty seven feet, half the time and there’s not much you can do about covering that shot. Great players can sometimes kill great defense and I think the film will show that.”
With the win the Rockets completed a 3-0 series sweep over the Kings in which Harden averaged 40 points per game.
The victory was significant for Houston (51-24), as the Rockets are now tied with the Grizzlies for the second seed in the Western Conference playoff race.
Sacramento trailed by as many as 19 points in the second quarter yet battled back, trailing by two in the fourth quarter but simply couldn’t get over the hump.
“The pride and heart of the team was very first class,” Karl said. “I just wish we could’ve gotten the win.”
Cousins' sensational performance.
The Kings showed great heart on the road fighting back from a 19-point second quarter deficit on the road to nearly defeat the Rockets.
The Kings couldn’t stop Harden.
Sacramento’s sluggish start, propensity for turnovers, inability to defend the 3-point line and 7-for-14 performance from the free throw line doomed the Kings’ upset effort in Houston.
The Kings' resilience against the Rockets was admirable yet the execution was lacking. Cousins is proving he can flourish in virtually any style of play.
All in all, you’ve got to give Sacramento kudos for a plucky road effort against one of the best players in the NBA and legitimate MVP candidate in Harden.