SACRAMENTO -- A win, is a win, is a win. The Sacramento Kings defended their home court for the first time in more than a month on Friday night, coming away with a 116-94 victory over the Phoenix Suns, snapping their seven-game losing streak at Sleep Train Arena.
“Home court has been a mystery that I think has frustrated everybody, coaching staff probably,” George Karl said. “It’s paramount; I think to be a successful team you have to win 30 games at home, instead of 15 or 16.”
With the victory, the Kings improved to 15-20 on their home floor this season and 28-44 overall. Despite posting huge attendance numbers, the Kings have often come out flat and listless at Sleep Train and over the last few games, the fans have let them hear it.
“Last home game, that was the first time I’ve ever been booed as a fan-base, that’s your fan-base, and it just strikes your heart like ‘dang, we’re really playing sorry for our own fans that come here every single day and cheer their asses off.’ They’re always in our corner and they’re booing you so that means you know you’re playing bad,” rookie Willie Cauley-Stein said.
The Kings had a bounce in their step from the opening tip. They held a 58-48 halftime lead and by the end of the third quarter they had already put the Suns away for one of their rare blowout wins this season.
“It was nice to come out there and play with the energy that we did today,” Cauley-Stein added. “From here on out, it’s really for them because we’re only playing for pride, so it’s like we might as well play for their pride, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The Kings have six remaining home games at the building formerly known as Arco Arena before they close the doors permanently and move into the fresh new Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento.
CAULEY-STEIN SHOWS OFF
Cauely-Stein didn’t just talk about giving the fans a show, he put his money where his mouth is. The 7-footer put on a highlight reel performance, scoring a career-high 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting.
“Yeah, I ain’t put 19 shots up in my whole life so that was cool,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve never shot 19 shots before so that was different; I liked that though.”
The rookie out of Kentucky hasn’t found consistent playing time all season, but it’s been magnified over the last month where he has either played sparingly. George Karl has vowed to put his youngster on display over the last 10 games, but he has said that in the past only to limit the athletic big man.
“He’s worked real hard on his game and it’s good to see him have an offensive game where he can take some chances, and take some opportunity,” Karl said. “I think it will help him see that's what he can do in this game now, his work has paid off a little bit.”
What was different Friday night? Why did Cauley-Stein look like an alley-oop machine? And why did he feel assured enough to even hoist up a 3-pointer?
“Just my teammates having confidence in me,” the 22-year-old said. “That’s the biggest thing when your teammates are telling you to score and telling you to shoot threes – when you ain’t shot a three in your whole life and they’re telling you to shoot threes – so that’s cool. I mean, that just makes you feel really good and like all the work you’ve put in, they’re telling you to show what you’ve been working on. So that’s just, I’m thankful for them.”
RONDO BREAKS ANOTHER RECORD
If this is a one-and-done season for Rajon Rondo, he’ll walk away with a handful of Sacramento-era records. He already owns the Kings record for most games with double-digit assist totals, which now stands at 47. And after Friday’s 12 assists, he has 795 dimes on the season, surpassing Reggie Theus’ total of 788 and taking sole possession of the Sacramento-era record.
Rondo has always been known as a pass-first point guard, but the numbers he’s putting up in Sacramento are stunning, even for him. With 10 games remaining on the schedule, he has surpassed his career best of 794 assists that he set as a member of the Boston Celtics during the 2009-10 season. Rondo continues to lead the NBA in assists per game at 11.7 per contest.