The Sacramento Kings had their toughest test of the young season on Thursday night.
A late nail bitter against the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento was able to seal their fourth consecutive win. The Kings are now 7-3 in their last 10 games played and a full game ahead of the Utah Jazz and two games behind the Houston Rockets.
A large part of this success is attributed to the elevated play of DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. In the month of January, Boogie has averaged 31.7 points, 13.7 points, and 1.7 steals a game. A candidate for Western Conference player of the month awards. Against Atlanta, Cousins had 24 points and 15 rebounds.
In the first quarter alone, Cousins had 11 points and eight rebounds and pushed the Kings ahead to an early seven-point lead. Turnovers plagued the Kings again as they had six turnovers in the first half.
The Hawks were unable to find any rhythm offensively as they struggled from the field early. Kyle Korver took 11 shots total and 10 of those were three-pointers. He was able to only convert three of them and finished with 9 points in 27 minutes of play.
Atlanta as a team shot 8-33 from behind the arc.
The Kings and Hawks exchanged leads throughout the second quarter. Rookie Willie Curley-Stein was incredibly active on the glass and grabbed five on his 11 rebounds which lead to 10 points for Sacramento. Stein recorded his second double-double of his career and finished with 12 points as well.
The third quarter was all Sacramento.
The Kings went on a 17-0 run three minutes into the quarter and were committed to both sides of basketball. Ben McLemore was playing as aggressive as we have seen him and had a huge block on Tim Hardaway Jr. and later converted a four-point play on the other end of the floor. McLemore finished with 14 points and a game-high +/- of +16.
Atlanta was able to recover with a 13-3 run of their own behind their power forward, Paul Milsap. Milsap had 14 points and 14 rebounds to finish the game as the Hawks leading scorer.
The fourth quarter was kept incredibly close. Neither team lead by more than six throughout the remainder of the game. However, it was Rajon Rondo that sealed the game of Sacramento. Rondo finished with his fifth triple-double as he scored the game-winning basket with five seconds left.
Up by three, the Hawks inbounded for the final shot with time remaining. Rondo predicted the final play and organized his team accordingly. Defending all areas of the perimeter, Rondo was able to force an inbound decision by the Hawks which lead to time expiring before the Hawks had a chance to shoot.
“I’m as happy with this win as I have been in awhile. Like OKC or some of the bigger games like the Clipper game,” coach Karl said after the game. “This is a blue color win. Atlanta is probably not a top 4-5 team, but they are pounding on the door.”
For the Kings, they look to extend the streak to five against Indiana at home this Saturday. Something they haven’t done since their 5-1 start at the very beginning of last season.
As for the Hawks they look to take on the streaky Phoenix suns in the desert on Saturday.
(26-18, 11-11 away)
(19-23, 11-11 home)
10:00 PM ET, January 21, 2016
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
Atl: P. Millsap 14 Pts, 14 Reb, 3 Ast, 5 Stl, 4 Blk
Sac: D. Cousins 24 Pts, 15 Reb, 5 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk