The Sacramento Kings may be one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, but they’re on a road trip and the Eastern Conference does bad teams much better than its counterpart.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, the Kings looked like a playoff contender, if only they could find a way to switch conferences. The young Bucks were no match for the Kings, who, though inconsistent and inexperienced, made it clear they’re more talented. Sacramento’s stars outshined their opponents in a 116-102 win.
DeMarcus Cousins led the way against an overmatched frontcourt. What little resistance Zaza Pachulia, with his physical play, was able to provide Cousins was cancelled out by his foul trouble. In 31 minutes, Cousins finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
Lately the Kings have struggled to take care of the ball on offense, but Wednesday the offense looked cohesive. They had just nine turnovers to go along with 21 assists.
“When the ball is moving and we’re sharing the ball, the offense is going to look that much crisper. When guys pass without hesitation and look to make plays for their teammates, the offense is going to be that much better,” Malone said. “When we are at our worst on offense is when everybody tries to do it themselves and we stop trusting one another and tonight that never became and issue.”
Despite the eventual outcome, the game was close for a quarter or so. Early on, the Kings (22-39) presented the Bucks (12-48) with easy opportunities, over-fouling and losing track of their assignments, which continually got easy looks as a result of unmonitored backdoor cuts.
Midway through the second quarter, though, Sacramento got on a roll and Milwaukee couldn’t stop their opponent’s momentum nor match it. The Kings gradually separated from the Bucks before halftime, thanks largely to a productive stint from Ray McCallum off the bench.
McCallum scored a career-high 11 points in the first half alone (he scored 15 by night’s end), playing a complementary role to his teammates. Many of his baskets came on the perimeter, when Cousins was double-teamed, and on cuts to the basket. He has also proven to be a compatible pairing with Isaiah Thomas, as both have the ability to play off the ball or handle it and run the offense.
The rookie second-round pick has strung together impressive performances over the last few weeks and Wednesday he put one together in front of his parents, who made the trip from Michigan.
“I’m just really starting to figure out my spots on the floor. Spacing was great tonight and my teammates made it so much easier for me,” McCallum said. “In college I was fortunate enough to play both positions. My natural position is point guard, but I’ll do whatever it takes to be on the floor with this team. I can play off the ball with Isaiah—we have good chemistry—and I feel I have great chemistry with all four guys I’m out there with.”
Afterward, Malone said that he and his team aren’t looking at their road swing as a seven-game trip, but instead taking it one game at a time.
Their next game will be Friday, when they take on the Toronto Raptors.