Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

With their 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, the Sacramento Kings sit 10 games under .500 at 17-27. In almost any other season, that would mean that they were dead in the water in the Western Conference playoff race. But this it the 2016-17 season where anything is possible at the bottom.

Following Sacramento’s win at the Palace at Auburn Hills, DeMarcus Cousins was asked about the playoff picture.

“It’s my only goal this season,” Cousins told reporters following the game. “My only goal.” 

When pushed on the subject, he gave a more complete answer.

“Oh man, it’s eating me alive - every loss or every time another team wins that’s battling for the eighth spot, it’s eating me alive,” Cousins added. “Our only goal is to be in the playoffs this season.”

The Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with the win over the Pistons and they came into the evening just 2-10 over their previous 12 games. 

Once they get through their current eight game road trip, they spend the entire month of February in the Pacific time zone and play 11 over their next 13 games at Golden 1 Center.  

“The one thing I can give credit to this team about is us staying together and being a positive locker room through the ups and downs,” Cousins said. “I’m still confident and I still believe we’re going to make that push for the playoffs.”

Despite the rough patch, the Kings remain just a game and a half out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings. No one is running away with that last playoff spot, at least not yet.


NBA's Last Two Minute report confirms gaffe in Kings win over Grizzlies

NBA's Last Two Minute report confirms gaffe in Kings win over Grizzlies

Every once in a while, an NBA game lasts longer than it should. That was the case Thursday night in the Sacramento Kings’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

The game lasted two hours and 29 minutes, but it felt longer, especially in the fourth quarter. With Memphis turning to fouling the Kings on almost every possession to stop the clock, the final period lasted 49 minutes.

It’s not often you see the final 22.1 seconds of a game take up an entire page in the official game book.

Part of the problem was the Grizzlies wouldn’t stop playing, even after falling behind big in both the third and fourth quarters. A secondary issue was the officiating, which showed up in the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

The first questionable call came at the 15.9 mark of the fourth, with the Kings leading 122-116. Veteran defender Kent Bazemore closed out on De’Anthony Melton in the left corner.

Bazemore came in high and according to the Last Two Minute Report, the officiating crew of Tony Brothers, Bill Kennedy and Mitchell Ervin made an incorrect call.

“Bazemore (SAC) makes incidental high-five contact with Melton's (MEM) hand after the release of his jump shot attempt and does not affect his ability to follow-through naturally.”

Ervin blew the whistle, which gave the Grizzlies life. Melton knocked down all three free throws to cut the Kings’ lead to three.

8.4 seconds later with the Kings’ lead down to just four points, Harrison Barnes reached in on Melton on the perimeter. The second-year guard had the ball near the ground and after contact by Barnes, he went into the shooting motion and was given another three free throws.

According to the league, Brothers, who blew the whistle, got it right.

“Barnes (SAC) makes contact across Melton's (MEM) left hand/wrist at the start of his upward shooting motion. The contact occurs prior to Barnes making any contact with the ball.”

Once again Melton stepped to the line and knocked down all three freebies to cut the Kings’ lead to just one at 125-124 with 7.5 seconds remaining.

[RELATED: Buddy saves Kings in win over Grizzlies]

While the NBA confirmed the call, the touch and the call for continuation were both highly questionable.

Memphis quickly fouled Buddy Hield, who knocked down a pair from the stripe. With 3.7 seconds remaining,  Cory Joseph fouled rookie Ja Morant before he could get into his shooting motion. Morant hit his first free throw and was called for a lane violation on his second attempt.

Hield finished off the game with another pair of free throws and the Kings escaped with the 129-125 win.

The officiating didn’t change the outcome of the game, but very well could have. It was another lesson for the Kings, although they still figured out a way to win.

The Kings are a frequent flier on the league’s Two Minute Report. This was the 24th game this season involving Sacramento that was decided by five points or fewer.

Sacramento faces the Grizzlies one more time this season and they should be prepared to play out the entire 48 minutes because Memphis never stops until the final whistle.

Buddy Hield saves Kings from mistakes in must-win game vs. Grizzlies

Buddy Hield saves Kings from mistakes in must-win game vs. Grizzlies

SACRAMENTO -- In the words of Kings shooting guard and NBA 3-point Champion Buddy Hield, “It be like that sometimes.”

It’s a catch-all phrase that seems to make sense in almost any situation for Sacramento this season.

Blow an 18-point third-quarter lead?

“It be like that sometimes.”

Two fouls by veterans players on 3-point attempts in the final 15.9 seconds?

“It be like that sometimes.”

Hield making six free throws in the final 15.2 seconds of a must-win game, including one that looked like it wanted to hop out?

“It be like that sometimes.”

Coming out of the All-Star break, the Kings have the slimmest hope of climbing back into the postseason chase. A win over the Grizzlies on Thursday and the Kings could climb to within six games of the eighth seed with 27 games remaining.

But a loss at home to Memphis would likely have been a death blow to their chances and put them eight games out of the race.

It wasn’t pretty and it took nearly 2 1/2 hours to work out the details, but the Kings survived a late barrage from the Grizzlies to come away with a 129-125 win. 

A big fourth quarter from rookie Ja Morant and some timely scoring from De’Anthony Melton helped the Grizzlies make a game of it.

With 27.7 seconds remaining, the Kings took a nine-point lead. 20.2 seconds later, the lead was down to one. Missed free throws, inexplicable fouls and defensive lapses by the Kings opened a door for the Grizzlies.

Hield’s heroics at the line were the only thing standing between the Kings and a horribly embarrassing, soul-crushing loss.

“As a team, I don’t think anyone’s going up there being nervous,” De’Aaron Fox said. “Sometimes we just haven’t been making them and Buddy came in and saved us tonight.”

Fox, who scored 26 for the game, missed four out of six free throws in the fourth. Three of those misses came as the Grizzlies were surging in the final minute.

Harry Giles, an 81-percent shooter from the stripe, hit one of two from the line in the final 30 seconds, as well. For a moment, it felt like the walls were closing on the Kings.

Compounding the misses at the line, Harrison Barnes and Kent Bazemore both fouled 3-point shooters in a span of eight seconds inside of 16 seconds left to play. Barnes’ foul was highly questionable and likely will be a late addition to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report on Friday.

In the end, the Kings held on for the win, but those mistakes aren’t something that can be repeated when the margin for error is so slim.

“Collectively, the little details, our communication, our rebounding, things like that, even as you saw tonight, there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Barnes said following the game.

The Kings know what the standings look like and they know how important every game is at this point in the season.

“We just got to chip away, lock in extra hard at this point because every game is critical,” Giles said. “Every game is always critical, but we put ourselves in a position where we can’t really afford to lose games.”

While mistakes were made, there were also plenty of positives. Barnes hit his first seven 3-point attempts and finished with a season-high 32 points. Bazemore was a force on both ends of the court, scoring 18 points in 23 minutes of action.

Fox was aggressive on the defensive end and outplayed Morant, and Giles made three tremendous, game-altering defensive plays late before picking up his sixth foul. His two blocks and a charge drew “Harry, Harry, Harry!” chants from the crowd.

“Three stops wins the game,” Giles said. “That’s what we do in practice and stuff and I just try to translate that.”

It could have been an easier win, but the Grizzlies are 28-27 on the season for a reason. They play hard for 48 minutes, much like the Kings did last year when they won a shocking 39 games.

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Sacramento is focused on one game at a time. The team knows that it’s too early or maybe too late to talk about the playoffs, but it is trying to finish the season strong. Despite all of the craziness in the closing minutes, the Kings found a way to beat the Grizzlies in a must-win game.

“It be like that sometimes.”