SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings have no margin for error. Be it their push for the eight seed in the Western Conference playoffs or their fourth matchup of the season against the World Champion Golden State Warriors, the Kings almost have to be perfect.
On Saturday night, the Kings were good, but they weren’t perfect. The result was a 128-116 loss to the Warriors, dropping the Kings to 0-4 on the season to their neighbors down the freeway.
The final score doesn’t really tell the whole story. The game really turned on a single moment in the late second quarter when the Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins was called for touch foul in the post, giving him three for the game.
At the time, it seemed harmless, but it was a ticky-tac call that gave Harrison Barnes the bucket and the call turned out to haunt Cousins and the Kings later in the game.
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George Karl subbed his star big out of the game for the final 1:04 to keep him from picking up another cheap one, really the damage was done. Cousins finished the half with 21 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes of play. He was dominating a talented Warriors frontline and the Kings were right in the thick of it.
Then 2:16 into the third quarter, Cousins was called for his fourth foul, this time on the offensive end while setting a screen. For all intents and purposes, the game was over at that moment.
With Cousins out, the Warriors finished the third quarter on a 31-22 run, taking a 96-84 lead into the fourth quarter.
Are the Kings overly reliant on their star big? Yes, but for good reason. After multiple injury setbacks to start the season, Cousins is on a tear. If his All-Star bid was in question three weeks ago, it shouldn’t be after his recent run. He may even garner player of the week honors after leading the team to a 2-2 record against a tough schedule.
“He’s a huge human being first off,” Draymond Green said. “He’s so versatile. He can score in the post, he can hit the three as he’s shown all season long, he can take you off the dribble. He’s just a super talented guy. He does that to everyone in the league.”
Cousins is blowing away the competition in the month of January. After his 33-point, 10-rebound performance on Saturday night, he averaging 32.4 points, 13 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field.
“He’s one of the better if not best one-on-one big men in the league that can play from all angles of the court,” Bogut added. “He poses a lot of matchup problems.”
Adding to Cousins’ resume’ is the fact that the Kings are 3-2 over the last five games and they are smack dab in the middle of the playoff race in the Western Conference.
Speaking to Cousins after the game, he said that the only thing that is different is that he finally feels healthy, and of course the winning doesn’t hurt. There is a noticeable change in his demeanor. Cousins looks like he is enjoying the game and even the opposition can see change.
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“We’ve come a long way myself and DeMarcus,” Andrew Bogut said with a smile. “The last three or four years there wasn’t a lot of laughing or smiling, so I feel like our relationship is really progressing. It’s been very enjoyable, so maybe it can get better next year or maybe in the playoffs.”
The Kings remain a game and a half out of the final spot in the playoff picture, but there is a long ways to go in the season. If they figure out a way to sneak in, the Warriors very well could be their first round opponent.
Golden State will be well represented next month in Toronto at All-Star weekend. Curry, Green and Klay Thompson are all shoe-ins. There is no question that Cousins should suit up and play alongside them.
IT’S RAINING THREES
The Warriors can beat you in so many ways, but their primary mode of attack is from the perimeter. They rank first in 3-point attempts, makes and percentage, knocking down nearly 13 long range buckets a night.
On the long list of issues the Kings are still trying to work out, defending the 3-ball is near the top. Sacramento ranks last in NBA in attempts against and makes against and the Warriors took full advantage of that issue.
“They have a tremendous knack of finding what mistake, or what flaw you have, or what concept you’re trying to make,” George Karl said following the game. “They pass the ball well and they are probably the best shooting team I’ve ever seen.”
Golden State shot an incredible 19-for-37 from behind the arc, outscoring the Kings 57-24 from long range. Reigning league MVP Stephen Curry led the way, knocking down 8-of-14 from deep. Draymond Green added a 5-of-6 night from behind the arc and Brandon Rush chipped in a 3-of-5 night.
THE BIG WEEK AHEAD
The Kings are obsessed with snapping the franchise’s nine-year playoff drought. It is a topic of conversation almost everyday either at practice in the locker room following the game.
If the Kings want to play in the NBA’s second season, this is a week that they can make major headway. After a three day break, the Kings host the Pelicans, before traveling to Utah to face the Jazz and Los Angeles to play the Clippers. The Kings round out their four game stretch with the Lakers at Staples Center next Wednesday.
After a horrible start, New Orleans is 11-24 and clawing to get back in the race. Utah sits one spot ahead of Sacramento in the standings and are tough at home. The Kings and Clippers love to hate each other and the Lakers are firmly in the chase for the NBA’s no. 1 pick this summer.
It should be an interesting week of Sacramento Kings basketball. They’ve talked the talk. Now it’s time to walk the walk.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
Rudy Gay is always good for a great one liner and Saturday night was no different. After watching Sleep Train Arena turn into a sea of yellow jerseys for the second straight game, the veteran wing had this to say about the Warriors fans who filled up the Kings home court.
"I guess the Warriors fans in Sacramento are riding the bandwagon just like everyone else." -Rudy Gay