The Sacramento Kings somehow, someway, are still looking to snatch that eighth seed in the remaining games of the season. In fact, it was a large part of the conversation tonight amongst players, coaches and personnel. Even with the wild trade speculation, organizational criticism, and regularly atrocious defensive effort, the team still has the audacity to believe they can fix things.
“That’s the thing,” said Rudy Gay at his locker after the game, “that has been our Achilles heel all season, two practices isn’t going to fix it, but we are getting better.”
Tonight, things were better.
In Michael Malone’s first return to Sacramento since being fired after starting the season 11-13 without DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings were able to hold off a late comeback from the Denver Nuggets. Cousins tied his career-high in rebounds, as the Kings won 116-110.
Sacramento found a lot of success feeding the ball to Cousins in the paint, switching less regularly on defense, drawing a number of fouls.
“Tonight, they went to him in the post all night long and we had no answer for him,” Nuggets head coach Mike Malone stated after the game.
Cousins finished the night with 37 points on 12-20 shooting from the field. DeMarcus also shot 1/1 from three, snagged 20 rebounds, and had four blocks. It was his 32nd double-double of the season and his 9th 20-point, 20 rebound double game passing Chris Webber in Kings franchise history.
Cousins wasn’t only the Kings player that came out hot. The Kings started the night shooting 10-13 from the field and put up 70 points in the first half alone. Rajon Rondo had four three-pointers in the first half and scored 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
Rudy Gay also contributed 24, while Darren Collison came off of the bench with 17.
The Nuggets had no solution for the Kings in the first half but were within striking distance throughout the duration of the game. The Kings gave up 22 turnovers and allowed the Nuggets 34, yes 34 points, off of those.
Danilo Gallinari had 27 points, Will Barton had 17, and Joffrey Lauvergne had 22.
The Nuggets now fall to 11-18 on the road and to 22-33 on the season.
After the game, nobody had a bad thing to say about the former Kings head coach after the game as all the players from the Sacramento side held Malone in the absolute highest regard.
This was a great start to the final push of the 2015-2016 NBA season for Sacramento. Ultimately hoping for a playoff spot for the first time in ten years, the Kings are trying to create a winning streak from here on out.