The Sacramento Kings kicked off their six-game road trip the right way Sunday night in Brooklyn, throttling the home team 122-105 on their way to win No. 7 on the season. But it wasn’t without drama.
Slow starts continue to plague this team. A flagrant foul in the fourth quarter completely changed the momentum of the contest. And then, boom, the Kings jump all over the home team for a huge run.
Sacramento trailed by as many as nine in the first quarter. Brooklyn got out and ran, hitting the Kings for nine points on the break in the first 12 minutes. They also stole a page out of the Houston Rockets’ playbook, dropping in 5-of-10 from long range before the Kings could even break a sweat.
With the starters stuck in mud, Joerger turned to his bench and once again, they responded with a solid outing.
“The bench has been incredible,” DeMarcus Cousins told reporters following the game. “They’re coming in with energy. They’re giving us that extra push we need.”
Omri Casspi hit two 3-pointers and a layup at the rim for eight quick points off the bench before half. Ty Lawson instantly pushed the tempo, scoring six points and handing out four assists before the whistle for intermission. Garrett Temple anchored the defense and Matt Barnes did the dirty work.
The second unit kept the game within reach as the Kings trailed by just one at the break.
And then Cousins came to play in the third.
Sacramento’s franchise player went to work against Brook Lopez and the Nets frontline, dropping in 18 of his 37 points in the third quarter on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, including a perfect 2-for-2 from deep.
“He’s a difficult cover because he can play facing you, he can play with his back to the basket, he can shoot a little bit, he can drive a little bit, he creates a lot of contact and can get to the foul line,” Dave Joerger said in his postgame interview. “You look down and how do you take that for granted? He had 37 and 11 - wow.”
Joerger may not take Cousins’ stats for granted, but he’s starting to get use to them. After Sunday’s performance, the All-Star center is now averaging 28.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this season. He’s punishing teams from all over the court, including the perimeter, where over the last four games he has hit 15-of-25 from 3-point land.
It appeared that the Kings would run away with the game, but with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and Sacramento leading by 18, veteran Matt Barnes was called for a hard foul on Sean Kilpatrick. After further review by the officiating crew, Barnes was hit with a Flagrant 2 and ejected.
“My reputation, I guess, kind of proceeds me, such as tonight,” a clearly frustrated Barnes said. “A foul - definitely a hard foul, but they took one look at the screen and automatically a Flagrant 2.”
Barnes made a play on the ball, but his off arm caught Kilpatrick in the chest, knocking him off balance. Kilpatrick hit the floor hard, but the Flagrant 2 call seemed extreme.
Brooklyn seized the moment, using the call to propel them on a 14-2 run over the next three minutes to draw the Kings within six at 99-93.
“We just had to buckle down and guard them,” Garrett Temple told CSN California’s Kayte Christensen following the game. “We understood they were on a high after that flagrant foul 2 by Matt (Barnes). It’s a game of runs.”
Almost as if a switch had been turned off and then suddenly turned back on, the Kings recovered and hit the Nets with a 16-0 run in a little over two minutes to put the game away.
“I don’t really know how to explain it, we just go to another level - it’s unexplainable,” Cousins said. “It happened tonight and we were able to get the game out of reach and seal a victory.”
The Kings have shown an ability to dig major holes for themselves all season. But they have also proven that they can make tremendous runs as well, even if it hasn’t always led to victories.
Sunday night in Brooklyn, the Kings were able to Jeckyll and Hyde themselves to a win.
“The biggest thing is staying poised,” Cousins said. “They hit us a few times tonight, we stayed poised, got back on track and pulled out a solid win.”
The Kings don’t have long to celebrate the victory. They face John Wall, Bradley Beal and the 5-10 Washington Wizards Monday evening at the Verizon Center on the second night of a back-to-back.