If defense is the name of the game, the Sacramento Kings (15-21) may be playing the wrong sport. The Kings looked complacent and lethargic on the less glamorous side of the ball as the Denver Nuggets (17-20) ran the home team over, 118-108.
“I believe every guy in this locker room knows why we lost tonight,” DeMarcus Cousins told the media after the match. “It’s because we didn’t defend at all.”
The Nuggets never shot under 50 percent and finished the night at a 55.3 percent clip. Despite playing with a limited frontcourt, Denver outscored Sacramento in the paint and drew 28 free throws to the Kings’ 24.
The Kings led the game at halftime 60-54, but a 36-15 Nuggets third quarter broke their backs. Sacramento played selfish offensively while showing little heart on defense. There were a handful of Nuggets fast breaks where Kings players failed to hustle back.
“We settled for jump shots and didn’t make them,” Tyrone Corbin noted. “They were running, and they made some shots, but then they got in the paint a little bit on us and we just couldn’t stop their run.”
Denver was down to nine healthy bodies for the contest, but six scored in double-figures. Ty Lawson and Aaron Afflalo led their club with 22 points apiece, while Jusuf Nurkic and J.J. Hickson dropped 16 points each. Kenneth Faried recorded 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Sacramento’s offense held its own but couldn’t keep up. They shot 48.8 percent from the floor and 6-of-19 from behind the arc. DeMarcus Cousins carried the load with 32 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, four blocks, three steals and seven turnovers. Rudy Gay scored 22 points, and Darren Collison added 15 points and seven assists. But the Kings bench was a non-factor, totaling 14 points entering the fourth quarter.
The loss drops the Kings to a 4-8 record with Corbin as head coach. Sacramento hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers (19-18) minus LeBron James on Sunday.
Notes and Analysis
- After a solid outing against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, the Sacramento Kings were embarrassed tonight on their home floor by an undermanned Denver Nuggets team. The Nuggets outscored the Kings 36-11 in the third quarter and shot a whopping 55.3 percent from the field despite having just nine healthy players in uniform. Just when the Kings took a giant step forward, they stumble backwards.
- Cousins was good, but he settled for way too many jumpers. With the Nuggets short-handed in the post, Cousins should have gone at rookie center Jusuf Nuric from the moment the ball was tipped tonight. Cousins finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds and four assists, but it wasn’t enough.
- Darren Collison played well on the offensive end, but he struggled with Ty Lawson on the other end of the floor. The Kings starting point guard yielded 22 points and eight assists to his counterpart. He scored 15 points and handed out seven assists in the loss, but this was a game to forget for Collison.
- Rudy Gay played well in stretches, finishing with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting. But he tallied just two rebounds and failed to hand out a single assist in 37 minutes. The Kings need Gay to do more than he has over the last few games. Filling up the basket is not enough.
- Nik Stauskas scored an efficient 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting in 20 minutes tonight. The rookie looked confident from the first 3-ball he took.
- Ben McLemore had an uncharacteristically sub-par performance. The 21-year-old guard finished with seven points on 2-for-8 shooting, but like his starting backcourt mate, McLemore struggled to stay in front of his man all night.
- Stat of the Night: In two earlier matchups this season, the Kings shot 97 total free throws. Tonight, against an injury-ravaged, short-handed Nuggets team, the Kings settled for jumpers and shot just 24 free throws.
Quote of the Game
DeMarcus Cousins on consistent effort
“We have to be consistent in wanting to play defense. We can’t want to play defense one game, and try to outscore a team the next night. We try to outscore people, we won’t win games. We play both ends, we’re a tough team to beat.”