Raw emotion overflowed Sleep Train Arena Friday night. In his Sacramento Kings (19-34) debut, in front of the loyal sellout crowd, new head coach George Karl steered his club to a spirited win against the Boston Celtics (20-32), 109-101.
“A lot of improvement can be made, but it was gutty,” George Karl told a large media scrum after the game. “We played with some heart.”
The Kings stumbled out the gate, falling behind 16-2 and losing four turnovers in the game’s first four minutes. But Sacramento roared back and finished the quarter on a 17-0 run to lead 28-27 after one.
Sacramento shot with confidence the rest of the way, shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and 8-for-22 from behind the arc. The Kings also moved the ball unselfishly, dishing 26 assists to help overcome 24 turnovers. Boston settled for jumpers often and shot only 40 percent on field goals, getting outscored in the paint 54-38.
DeMarcus Cousins shook off any doubts that he didn’t fit in Karl’s offense by producing 31 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and nine turnovers in 36 minutes. Rudy Gay dropped in 28 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Derrick Williams had a big first half to finish with 11 points and five rebounds, while Andre Miller notched eight points, four rebounds, and four assists in his first appearance with the Kings as well.
“I was a little bit nervous, because I didn’t want to make mistakes,” Miller noted. “But I was worried more about my energy level. I probably haven’t slept in about 30, 32 hours.”
For the Celtics, Avery Bradley worked the midrange game for 28 points and added six assists. Tyler Zeller scored 22 points in his spot start, and Brandon Bass chipped in 13 points.
With the victory, Sacramento launches a new era on the right foot. Unfortunately, the Kings can’t celebrate for long. They’ll travel to play the Los Angeles Clippers (36-19) tomorrow in a back-to-back.
Notes and Analysis
- DeMarcus Cousins picked up his 34th double-double of the season, finishing with 31 points, 15 rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes. He shot an efficient 12-for-18 from the field but turned the ball over nine times. George Karl intends to use Cousins all over the court, so there will be an adjustment period. Expect these turnover numbers to improve as the team becomes more familiar with Karl’s system.
- Rudy Gay got off to a slow start, going 0-for-3 from the field in the wild first quarter. But he recovered to drop in 28 on 8-of-18 shooting and added four assists in the win. Gay is built for Karl’s system and the addition of Andre Miller is only going to help the Kings starting wing.
- Miller barely made it to town in time for the game and has never practiced with this team. That didn’t stop Karl from turning to Miller for 23 minutes in his Kings debut. Miller makes everyone around him better and will be a perfect compliment behind Darren Collison when he returns from injury. He finished with eight points, four assists and four rebounds off the bench.
- Every time Jason Thompson gets a new head coach, he loses his job. The veteran has gone through seven head coaches in seven years, which would take a toll on anyone. Tonight that transition lasted all of five minutes. Thompson looked aggressive and ready to battle for his job once again. He gave a solid six-point, nine-rebound performance and started the second half in place of Carl Landry.
- If Derrick Williams can find some consistency, he has a chance to thrive in Karl’s system. Williams showed flashes of brilliance in the second quarter, where he scored seven of his 11 points with a barrage of dunks.
- Karl turned to Omri Casspi early and often and he responded well. Casspi stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with seven points, 12 rebounds and a team-high six assists in 32 minutes off the bench.
- Ray McCallum picked up the start tonight with Collison out and played a solid game. In 25 minutes of action, McCallum scored eight points, handed out four assists and added five rebounds. The second-year guard has a short amount of time to prove that he is rotation-worthy before slipping into third guard status once again.
- Stat of the Night: The Kings turned the ball over 24 times which led to 38 points for the Celtics and they still came away with the victory.
Quote of the Game
DeMarcus Cousins on watching Andre Miller
“Everybody’s running fast except him. He was amazing. That’s a pure point guard. That’s a guy who knows his craft.”