When George Karl took the Kings job, he talked about the Kings having “enough talent to win games” and that the squad had been through “basketball hell.”
Well, Sacramento found a slice of heaven in Charlotte, snapping a four-game losing streak in a 113-106 win over a Hornets team fighting for a playoff spot.
“Ben (McLemore) had a great game,” Karl told reporters in Charlotte. “Had to get that losing streak done and we did. It now allows us to maybe have a free day to enjoy life a little bit without that monkey on your back.”
McLemore poured in a season-high 27 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. Rudy Gay contributed 26 points and DeMarcus Cousins added his 39th double-double of the season, finishing with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
“That helped us out a lot, having a third guy like that, giving us that extra push,” Cousins told reporters. “It helps us out a lot. When Ben’s clicking and myself and Rudy, we are a good team.”
After going scoreless in Orlando, McLemore is now averaging just under 20 points per night over his last three games.
“I was just going out there competing, having fun and just playing my game,” McLemore told the media. “I let the game come to me. I knocked down shots when I was open, made plays for others and made plays for myself.”
In contrast to squandering leads in Orlando and Miami, Sacramento (22-41) was able to seal the deal by playing with poise down the stretch.
Charlotte (28-35) took a 95-94 lead on a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist dunk at the 5:04 mark of the fourth quarter, but the Kings responded.
Sacramento went on a 7-0 run capped by a Gay alley-oop dunk via an Andre Miller assist with 3:21 remaining to go up 102-95 en route to the win.
“I think it should have been a lot easier if we would have rebounded,” Karl said regarding the Kings’ execution over the last five minutes. “There were a lot of possessions in the last five minutes that we didn’t rebound and that hurt us.
“I thought Ray (McCallum) played really good. A lot of contributions in a lot of ways. Miller’s steadiness is definitely important.”
McCallum had nine assists with zero turnovers - only the third player in the NBA to do so this season in under 26 minutes, while Miller was solid with seven points and seven assists.
“We did well on both ends,” Cousins added. “We had a good string of stops down at the end. We gave up some offensive rebounds, but we had a good string of stops.
“That’s an improvement. We came down on the other end and executed well. I think we are on the right path.”
Ben McLemore’s production was the perfect complement to the reliability of DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.
Sacramento’s clutch playmaking on the road was key to securing the road win.
Sacramento was outrebounded 44-43 and outscored 50-40 in the paint by the Hornets.
The Kings finishing strong on the road is a tangible step in the right direction, especially against a Hornets squad playing with a sense of urgency to secure a playoff spot.