The Sacramento Kings have missed DeMarcus Cousins’ impact on both sides of the ball, and his return in this Thursday night’s game made it a highly contested matchup.
It also aided in the absence of Mike Malone, whose firing has introduced Ty Corbin as the Kings’ interim head coach. Corbin has preached a fast-pace approach to the team’s offense, contrary of the half-court focus Sacramento had with Malone.
The Kings started off hot against the Milwaukee Bucks whose transition defense was subpar, and whose efforts to stop Ben McLemore in transition were futile in the first quarter.
McLemore finished with 22 points, four rebounds, and three assists on 80 percent shooting from the field.
While the transition-focused offense performed well, Sacramento’s defense had trouble putting together stops. Whether the lack of defensive prowess is a result of Malone’s lost influence remains to be seen, but Corbin knows that the team is in transition right now.
“Just coming together, we have to get everybody on the same page. It’s been a tough week for the guys. It’s been a tough week for everybody. The only way we can get through it is to get our minds cleared and play through it.”
The Kings couldn’t stop Bucks shooters throughout the entire game. In the first quarter alone, O.J. Mayo had 17 points going 3-for-3 from three-point range and was 7-for-9 from the floor overall. The Bucks got Mayo space to shoot the ball at will, as the Kings failed to fight through screens and close out on shooters.
Jarryd Bayless and Jared Dudley also combined for 36 points and shot 5-for-7 from beyond the arch, and allowed the Bucks to pull ahead in the fourth quarter by just a point.
The final two minutes would feature an exchange of baskets from both teams, including two tough driving shots from Rudy Gay which tied the game at 105. Gay had big baskets throughout the final period. He finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists on the night.
Zaza Pachulia made one of two free-throws with 6.5 seconds left in the game, setting up the Kings for an attempt at a game-winner.
Sacramento got the ball in Cousins’ hands, but the Bucks immediately forced him to catch the ball on the high post, and the play resulted in a step-back jumper that rattled of the front iron.
“We wanted to get it into his hands, we thought we had a chance to get it to him down low but they pushed him up and he came back to the ball,” said Corbin. “We wanted to get it in his hands and figured he could get some space. He had a good look and he could have gone a little quicker, but he got a look at it.”