Cousins carries the load, but Kings are learning to play together

Cousins carries the load, but Kings are learning to play together

It’s going to take a team effort. The Sacramento Kings are quickly learning that their path to success for the 2016-17 season is not one or two players delivering on a nightly basis. If they are going to compete, everyone has to contribute. 

“I think we’re understanding better, we’re understanding that we can only win by playing together,” DeMarcus Cousins told CSN’s Kayte Christensen following the Kings’ 109-106 win over the Hornets Saturday night in Charlotte. “Moving the ball, having a team oriented defense. The iso ball and all of that is out of play now. The only way we win games is to play together.” 

Cousins is the wrecking ball. He is the player that the team relies on to do major damage both as a scorer and rebounder, but they also need him to facilitate for other. On Saturday night in Charlotte, the three-time All-Star dropped in 26 points, 18 rebounds and four assists. 

“He’s understanding that defenses are giving him all types of looks and he’s being a lot more poised and patient,” Darren Collison told reporters following the win. 

Sacramento’s star player has made it a point of emphasis to get his teammates involved and increase his assist numbers this season. He’s averaging a career-best 4.4 dimes per game this season, but over his last 18 games, he’s increased that number to 6.2. 

“DeMarcus is doing exceptionally well getting us involved,” Collison added. “It’s our job to knock down the shots. He can only do so much, but when we give him the added help, it makes him look good as well.”

Collison has been a major beneficiary of Cousins’ recent play. The 29-year-old point guard dropped in 17 points against the Hornets on 7-of-11 shooting and over the last four games, he’s averaging 19.5 points per game as the Kings’ second scoring option.

Everyone is getting involved in the action. After falling out of the rotation for stints this season, Arron Afflalo has found his groove as a spot up 3-point shooter and occasional post up player. The 10-year NBA vet has posted double-figure scoring in three straight games and he’s now shooting an impressive 41.4 percent from behind the arc on the season.

Like Afflalo, second-year big Willie Cauley-Stein is finding his niche with the team and contributing in a big way.

“I’m just letting the game come to me, just being in good spots, always being engaged and trying to be aware of where guys are and where the holes are in the defense and just trying to flash and get as many touches as I can while I’m in there,” Cauley-Stein told Christensen.

The wiry 7-footer scored 13 points in 14 minutes off coach Dave Joerger’s bench. He shot 6-of-7 from the floor and he’s quietly becoming the disruptive defensive force the Kings thought they were getting when they selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Something feels different with this group. Even the young players are noticing the change. 

“The team camaraderie is just very vet oriented,” Cauley-Stein added.”There’s no beef between anybody. Everybody knows their roles, not anybody is trying to play out of their roles.”

Garrett Temple played incredible perimeter defense. Ty Lawson wrang up nine assists off the bench. Anthony Tolliver hit 4-of-8 from 3-point land on his way to 14 points. 

Even the players that didn’t post big stats made an impact as the Kings shook off the tough loss in Indiana from the night before.

“We’re getting to a level where this needs to be how we play every night as far as how hard we play,” Joerger said. “We’ve been playing hard, but you look at last night - that was a heck of a basketball game, tonight was a heck of a basketball game. Guys diving on the floor like it’s a playoff game.”

The Kings get a much needed day off on Sunday before returning to the court Monday afternoon in Philly against the upstart Sixers. They finish out their road trip Tuesday in Houston against the high powered Rockets and then return home.

It’s been a brutal stretch, but the Kings are 3-3 on the road trip and still have a chance to build on that win total. Following the contest against the Rockets, they play 11 of the next 13 games at Golden 1 Center.

Did Buddy Hield double dribble on Kings' buzzer-beater against Pistons?

Did Buddy Hield double dribble on Kings' buzzer-beater against Pistons?

Buddy Hield gets buckets. On Saturday in Detroit, he drained one he will never forget, heaving in an acrobatic 3-pointer to give the Kings a 103-101 win over the Pistons at the buzzer. 

"As a kid, you always dream of hitting one of those types of shots, especially at a high level like this," Hield said to reporters after the game. "It’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

But did perhaps the most memorable shot of his NBA career come with controversy? It depends on who you ask. 

Is Blake Griffin right? Let's take another look at the shot. 

“I lost the ball,” Hield said to The Athletic's Sam Amick. “I didn’t have possession of the ball. I just tried to catch it, and I lost it. It’s whatever. It counts as a win, so we’ll take it.”

Whether you believe it was a double dribble or not, Hield's right -- it counts as a win, and now the Kings (24-22) are only a half game behind the Clippers (24-21) for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference standings.

Kings' Buddy Hield didn't double dribble before buzzer-beater, NBA says

Kings' Buddy Hield didn't double dribble before buzzer-beater, NBA says

The league has spoken. According to the NBA’s Two-Minute Report, Buddy Hield's game-winner against the Detroit Pistons on the Kings’ final possess Saturday evening was legal.

"Hield (Sac) fumbles the inbound pass and subsequently bats the ball to the floor as he attempts to gain control. He picks up the ball with both hands thereafter, establishing full control, and legally takes one dribble prior to the start of his upward shooting motion."

Hield’s 28-footer as time expired didn’t even graze the iron. It cut right through the net, sending Sacramento to an improbable 24th win on the season.

With 3.4 seconds remaining and the Kings trailing 101-100, Bogdan Bogdanovic hit Hield coming off a screen from Willie Cauley-Stein. Hield bobbled the initial pass, took one dribble, picked the ball up and from one camera took another dribble as he stepped through three Pistons for the open look.

Following the loss, Blake Griffin voiced his opinion on the play.

"Fumbling the ball, taking a controlled dribble to gather the ball, picking it up with two hands then taking another dribble definitely works to your advantage," Griffin told media members.

Center Zaza Pachulia agreed with his star big.

"Once he picked up the ball, he couldn't dribble anymore," Pachulia told reporters. "That's messed up. Unfortunately he did. He got by me easy because it was sort of surprising. One-foot floater from (three-point range)? C'mon."

Pachulia's late-game defense was also called into question by the two-minute report, but like Hield, he was cleared by the officials upon review.

Hield defended his play following the game and his recollection of the events lines up with those of the league.

“I lost the ball,” Hield told reporters following the game. “I didn’t have possession of the ball. I just tried to catch it, and I lost it. It’s whatever. It counts as a win, so we’ll take it.”

As the ball ripped through the cords, Hield shed a celebrating De’Aaron Fox and then took a victory lap around Little Caesars Arena before jumping a television cord and heading down the tunnel and into the visiting locker room.

Maybe the Kings stole a victory. Maybe the Pistons gave one away. Not of that really matters in the. All that matters for Sacramento is that the games goes in the win column.