Give the ball to the big man and get out of the way.
With the Los Angeles Lakers refusing to double-team DeMarcus Cousins all night long, the Kings’ All-Star big man put on a show. His inability to knock down free throws kept the Lakers alive late, but in the end, it was too much Boogie as Sacramento came away with the 97-96 victory at the Staples Center.
“I thought DeMarcus really delivered the mail, especially on the blocks,” Dave Joerger told reporters following the win. “It was like running the football and we just gave them different looks.”
The offense went through Cousins on almost every possession down the stretch. He scored 16 points in the final quarter on just four made field goals and 7-of-11 shooting from the line. Any time the Lakers sent an extra man at Cousins, he sent it around the horn, but that only happened once or twice in the final few minutes of the game.
“Feed me...Feed me,” Cousins told reporters during post with a huge grin on his face.
Cousins finished the night with 40 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the field and 12-for-19 from the line. He added 12 rebounds and eight assists in a near triple-double performance.
“He was able to take advantage on the one-on-one cover and he either got fouled or he got the bucket,” Darren Collison told reporters.
With back-up Ty Lawson out, Collison was forced into playing 40 minutes or more for the third straight game and he posted solid numbers. The veteran point guard scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting and tied Cousins for the team lead in assists with eight.
“DC’s stepped up to the challenge,” Cousins said of his starting point guard. “He’s been logging in a lot of minutes as of lately. He’s playing. He’s pushing no matter what the results are. You’ve got to appreciate guys like that.”
Collison has logged big minutes in career, but the Kings’ impacted schedule has allowed very little time for rest and recovery. With the All-Star break just around the corner, the UCLA product is looking forward to the time off.
“I’m alright, I’m trying,” Collison said. “We’ve got one more game before the break. I’ll be alright. We win, it helps me out a lot.”
Cousins and Collison continue to drive the Kings forward as they picked up their fourth straight win and fifth in the last six attempts. It’s a shocking turn of events for a team that is down Lawson, Omri Casspi, Garrett Temple and Rudy Gay due to injury.
“We’ve lost some big pieces to our team, but at the same time it’s given opportunities to come and step in and fill those roles,” Cousins said. “I think guys have accepted the challenge and doing even more than expected. Credit to them for being professionals.”
Ben McLemore is one of those players to rise to the challenge. The fourth-year guard continues to show flashes as his minutes increase. He scored 13 points Tuesday night on 4-of-9 shooting and his defense has improved by leaps and bounds.
Arron Afflalo put up 10 points in 37 minutes of action and 36-year-old Matt Barnes may have made the play of the game when he picked up a late rebound off a Cousins missed free throw that led to a basket.
It wasn’t pretty. The Kings gave up a 13 point fourth quarter lead and Lou Williams missed a shot at the buzzer that would have sent the Kings home losers. But Sacramento is developing a grittiness to them that has been missing in past renditions of this team.
“We’re never going to give up, we’re never going to give in, we’re always going to be there in the end,” Joerger said.
With the win, Sacramento improved to 24-32 on the season and they trail the Nuggets by just a game and a half for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They’ll put their win streak on the line Wednesday night when they face the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.