Dave Joerger set out the plan of attack for the Sacramento Kings before the season even began - first learn how to compete every night and then learn how to win. It’s hard to argue that the Kings aren’t competing, but they are struggling to move to that next step.
For 48 minutes they competed with the Washington Wizards on Monday night, but when the game went into overtime, Sacramento wilted under the pressure and fell by a final of 101-95.
DeMarcus Cousins was a one-man wrecking crew, finishing the night with 36 points, 20 rebounds and four assists. He missed seven of 10 free throws and struggled with turnovers, but it’s hard to fault a player that almost single-handedly willed a team through 48 minutes.
“We’ve just got to be better,” Omri Casspi told reporters following the game. “Our bench guys and our role players have to do a better job of helping DeMarcus. It feels like he’s doing anything he can to win the game for us. We’ve just got to be better.”
To Casspi’s point, Sacramento’s role players struggled mightily. The group of Casspi, Kosta Koufos, Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes and Garrett Temple combined for just 21 points on 7-of-30 shooting (23.3 percent). It’s tough for any team to overcome an off night from six of their 10 rotational players.
Both Rudy Gay and Ty Lawson posted quality numbers, but it was Cousins’ show. Gay finished the night with 18 points and five rebounds. The speedy Lawson is finding his groove with the second unit, scoring 12 points and handing out three assists in 24 minutes off Joerger’s bench.
Despite the poor showing, the Kings made a late run to tie the contest and send it to overtime. And then everything fell apart.
Joerger relied heavily on Cousins for much of the night, including the fourth quarter where Cousins scored 10 of the team’s final 12 points down the stretch to force an overtime session. But the Kings’ star center saw just three shot attempts in the extra five minutes and none of them were near the key.
“Overtime - I’m sick about that, I feel like I just completely choked in the overtime, I’m not happy about the overtime,” Cousins told reporters from his locker stall at the Verizon Center.
The Kings went scoreless in the overtime session until the final 16.8 seconds when Rudy Gay, who had missed his previous three shots in OT, hit a 3-pointer to pull Sacramento back to within five points at 99-95. But it was too little, too late.
“I thought we missed five wide open shots,” Joerger said of the overtime session.
The end result was another frustrating loss in a winnable game for the Kings. This is the third overtime loss for Sacramento through 18 games. All three have come on the second night of a back-to-back on the road.
“This was a very winnable game, hopefully this doesn’t come back to bite us in the butt later on,” Cousins said.
Sacramento didn’t look crisp from the opening tip. They turned the ball over 20 times, including six miscues for Gay and another five for Cousins. They shot just 40.9 percent from the field and after making 13-of-23 from long range the night before in Brooklyn, they managed to hit just 3-for-21 from 3-point land against the Wizards.
“I don’t think we really ever had a good flow, we didn’t move the ball like we usually do, we didn’t get the clean open looks that we’re used to getting,” said Cousins. “Offense was kind of stagnant tonight.”
With the loss, Sacramento fell to 7-11 on the season. They continue their six-game road trip in Philadelphia on Wednesday, when they face a young, but beatable 76ers team.