Sacramento Kings defeat Houston Rockets to win 2014 NBA Summer League title

by Jonathan Santiago and James Ham

Kings celebrate their summer league championship. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

LAS VEGAS – Building a winning culture has to start somewhere.  For the Sacramento Kings, it’s started this year with summer league.

After losing their opening game to San Antonio, the Kings rattled off six straight wins to take the 2014 summer league title in Las Vegas.  They bested the Houston Rockets by a final score of 77-68 on Monday night.

“Well, we’ve always talked about trying to change our culture, a team that’s lost so much in recent years,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said after the championship victory.  “This isn’t the regular season by any means, but for us to come here and play as well as we did and win a championship, I think that’s a step in the right direction to creating a winning culture.”

Ray McCallum was the man of the night, leading all scorers and picking up the Finals MVP.  With the game on the line, the former Detroit Mercy star finished off the Rockets with a barrage of baskets, scoring 19 of his 29 points in the final two quarters.

“For him to step up and score 29 points in the championship game and kind of take over down the stretch is a direct result of all the hard work he’s put into his game this summer,” Malone said of the second-year guard.

Notes and analysis of tonight’s title game can be read down below.

  • Ray McCallum brought a scorer’s mentality to this game, dropping in a game-high 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting.  McCallum also grabbed nine rebounds and handed out just a single assist in the win.  “One thing I learned about the NBA is once you get the opportunity, try to make the most of it,” McCallum said after the victory.  “I saw my team was struggling a little bit down the stretch so I knew I had to make some big plays.”
  • McCallum’s father and Detroit Mercy head coach Ray McCallum Sr. will be getting a gift from his son.  The Kings starting point guard said he plans on handing over his Finals MVP trophy to his dad.  “I’m gonna go home so I’ll probably give the trophy to my father,” McCallum said. Let him put it in his office for helping me get to this point.  He means a lot to me.  If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here so we’re gonna put this up in the trophy room in his office probably.”
  • Ben McLemore had a disastrous final game until the final period.  Much like the Las Vegas opener, the second-year guard forced action early, but once his shot began to fall, you saw his confidence grow.  After starting the game 1-for-10, McLemore scored seven points in the deciding fourth quarter.  “That’s perseverance, and that’s being resilient,” Malone said of McLemore after the game.  “And I think that he showed that during the season, as well.  He struggled at times, but he maintained his composure, kept on working hard and played better.”
  • Nik Stauskas is a silent assassin.  The rookie quietly finished with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting and 2-for-3 from long range.  It’s hard to judge the 20-year-old sharpshooter when his team combined for a total of seven assists on the night.  Kings fans should be chomping at the bit to see what he can do with DeMarcus Cousins manning the post.  “I think early on, I was able to get a few shots in rhythm,” Stauskas said of his performance Monday evening.  “We got to warm up a little bit longer.  My jump shot was feeling pretty good.  Just knock (jumpers) down when I can and in the second half, other guys had it going so I was just spacing the floor.”
  • Ra’Shad James made a huge difference off Tyrone Corbin’s bench, finishing with 12 points in 23 minutes and a plus-29 in the plus-minus column.  James played last season in Reno with the Bighorns and will likely need to continue his growth at the D-League level, but he came up big in the championship game.
  • Eric Moreland continued his impressive summer league, blocking another three shots and grabbing a team-high 10 rebounds.   The former Oregon State big man has earned a training camp invite, either in Sacramento or elsewhere.  He is raw on the offensive end, but you can’t teach the natural shot blocking instincts that he has.
  • Sacramento won this game on the defensive end by holding the Rockets to just 32.0 percent shooting from the field and 20.8 percent from long range.  “We were the best defense here out of the 24 teams and (playing good defense) is what I believe in,” Malone said. “And then we tried to instill ball movement and playing together.  And at times, we did a good job of that and other times, we struggled a little bit.”
  • If the Kings wouldn’t have made the big comeback, we would be talking about the team’s 7-to-17 assist-to-turnover ratio.  The ball movement was not good, and neither was the pace of the game.
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