SACRAMENTO -- It wasn’t supposed to end this way, not this season. The Sacramento Kings weren’t supposed to be sitting on the outside looking in of the NBA’s playoff picture with 10 games remaining. But that is exactly where they are.
Sunday’s 133-111 drubbing of the Dallas Mavericks was as impressive as it was frustrating. Where was this Kings team a month ago? Where was this type of energy and cohesion when they were losing 8-of-9 in late January and early February or 9-of-10 in late February and early March?
“I think you’ve seen pieces of it in almost every game we play, we just don’t put four quarters together,” George Karl said. “Very seldom do you get your first and second units competing for who was the best unit.”
The Kings have had plenty of nice moments this season, but their inconsistency has killed them. On most nights it’s a quarter-to-quarter proposition as to which team will show up.
After dropping seven straight at home, the Kings have now won two in a row. They play Monday night in Portland and they are well rested. No player hitting the 29-minute mark, including big man DeMarcus Cousins who scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and handed out five assists in just 28 minutes of action.
The locker room was light again, with plenty of smiles. The pressure that had been building with this team has dissipated and it only took a few blowout wins.
“Winning is always fun, regardless of the situation,” Rajon Rondo said. “As long as the outcome is a win, we’ll take it.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Hot-shooting Kings run all over Mavs]
Rondo played for Dallas last season and it didn’t end well. With the Kings playing for pride, it had to feel good to set the Mavericks back in their quest for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.
“Yeah, I want them to get their plane ticket as soon as we get ours,” Rondo said. “So anytime we can help, that’s what I try to get these guys to focus on - if we’re not going to make the playoffs, then let’s help some of these guys go home with us.”
The Kings began the season as a league of villains. Maybe they reprise that role as they play spoiler down the stretch.
THE BENCH COMES TO PLAY:
To rattle off a 133 points, you need a team effort and that is exactly what the Kings received Sunday afternoon. Eight players scored in double-figures, including five of the six Karl inserted off the bench.
Rookie Willie Cauley-Stein has been a breath of fresh air over his last two games. The 7-footer dropped in 26 points in Friday’s win over the Phoenix Suns and backed that up with another 21 points against the Mavs on 8-of-11 shooting.
“His offense was blessed by a lot of good plays by other people,” Karl said. “He’s got the lob and the rim game going. He’s worked really hard on understanding what he can in the game.”
The young big man wasn’t the only bright spot off the Kings bench. Darren Collison went at his former team, scoring 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
After missing the previous 10 games with a non-displaced fracture in the tip of his right ring finger, Ben McLemore returned to drop in 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The 23-year-old guard looked confident and aggressive, two traits that have been lacking from his game on most nights this season.
“It was pretty tough,” McLemore said. “Throughout my first two years in the league I hadn’t missed a game and then I had an injury that kept me out for a while. It’s pretty tough sitting out.”
Big man Kosta Koufos failed to register a minute of action against the Suns, drawing the dreaded DNP-CD on Friday night. On Sunday he looked energized off the bench, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes of action.
Veteran Omri Casspi rounded out the double-digit scoring from the reserves, scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbing four rebounds.
The Kings second unit finished the night with a season-high 72 points, the most they’ve scored since Jan 2, 1993. It was a team effort that Karl would love to have on most night. It’s not often you see a team score 133 points in a game with only 61 coming from the starting unit.