Desperate for a win to aid in the process of clinching a playoff berth, the Dallas Mavericks entered Sleep Train Arena Sunday night to face the Sacramento Kings. The Mavericks held off a late Kings charge and won 93-91.
Sacramento came off Friday night’s embarrassing outing against the Golden State Warriors with impressive performances out of Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. Both players helped keep the game competitive in dynamic fashion. Gay dished out eight assists to tie a career high, complementing his 32 points, which carried his team and kept the Kings competitive until the final buzzer.
Gay created open looks for himself and his teammates, driving to the basket and challenging Dirk Nowitzki in the paint to send himself to the line for valuable free throws. He was equally effective on the defensive side of the ball, switching constantly and providing help defense to Cousins down low to give easy transition opportunities to his supporting cast. It seemed that throughout the game, Gay’s main priority was making sure his teammates took open looks. Unfortunately, the Kings weren’t able to capitalize on many of the open shots from beyond the arc and shot just 27.8 percent from three-point range.
“We had a chance at it. Everybody had a chance at it. We shot open shots; sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” Gay said.
Meanwhile, Cousins imposed his presence on Mavericks big men. He only had two personal fouls on the game, which shows that Cousins may be growing into a more steady-headed player as time progresses. He was smart when challenging shots, going straight up with his arms instead of haphazardly attacking offensive players. He drew fouls and threw in a couple of blocks to make his defensive game one which the Mavericks could not fully evade.
Despite his thoroughly stellar game, Cousins still wasn’t convinced that his team did everything possible to hold off the Mavericks.
“We all had a bad game … We all had a terrible game,” he said.
Ray McCallum continued to start for the Kings in the stead of an injured Isaiah Thomas, making his presence felt on the offensive side of the ball as he dished out nine assists and consistently found open looks for his teammates. Defensively, he had major issues with his assignment. His effort on Monta Ellis was similar to what many point guards have experienced when trying to guard him. Ellis blew by McCallum virtually untouched, breaking through his defense in transition and penetrating easily to get himself open looks. He imposed his will on the Kings defense, and Dallas capitalized on the effort.
A well-rounded performance from the Mavericks bench and constant offensive rebounding translated into second-chance points, a lopsided facet of the game.
“With defense comes the responsibility of finishing off the possession with a gang rebound,” Malone said. “We did an awful job of rebounding the ball tonight. They dominated us with 17 second-chance points.”
A direct outcome of the Mavericks’ gang rebounding was the easy looks Dallas big men had in the paint. The Kings’ interior defense was present, but the paint seemed to open up as the game progressed; Samuel Dalembert and Shawn Marion repeatedly got easy looks at the basket. With the inside game came opportunities from deep, which Nowitzki, Ellis, and Vince Carter took advantage of. The Kings could not adapt fast enough to the dual-threat offense, which made both interior play and three-pointers major headaches.
Even though the Mavericks scored just 93 points, it was still very evident that they would not be fully halted offensively. They got the shots they wanted, and, unlike the Kings, they took advantage. Missed opportunities and a lack of offensive execution down the stretch was the Kings’ undoing.
With only five games left in the Kings season, they will be looking for bright spots to build on going into the offseason. The Kings will be hosting another highly competitive team in the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, and it will be another chance for them to finish off the season strong with a home victory against a team fighting for something.
For more on this game from the Dallas Mavericks’ perspective click here.