We’ve got a win streak. For the third straight game, the Sacramento Kings turned the screws on a team late to come away with a huge victory. This time it was in Minnesota against a young, but extremely talented Timberwolves by a final of 109-105.
With the win, and losses by both the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, the Kings gave their fans a little bit of extra joy heading into Christmas weekend. Although it’s early in the season, Sacramento now holds sole possession of the eighth seed in the race for the Western Conference playoffs.
This is unfamiliar territory for a franchise that has been on the outside looking in of the NBA’s postseason for a decade.
“I just think the team’s playing the right way, we’re all buying in,” DeMarcus Cousins told reporters following the game. “I think we’re starting to realize what it takes to win games. I think we’re doing a great job of playing together, moving the ball, getting everybody involved - guys are having fun right now.”
Cousins got off to a slow start, but he came out in the third quarter on fire. The Kings’ star center hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the third on his way to another huge statistical night.
“He just like sneezed 32 - it’s amazing, he’s amazing,” coach Dave Joerger said of Cousins in his postgame press conference.
Not only did Cousins drop in 32, but he stuffed the stat sheet in almost every other category. With shots falling for both teams, he managed to grab just seven rebounds, but he dished out a team-high seven assists, snared four steals and blocked two shots in the win.
Minnesota came at the two-time All-Star and he found his teammates for open shots on the perimeter.
Anthony Tolliver was the beneficiary of plenty of those passes. The veteran forward has been in and out of the rotation all season, but he’s earned a longer look with his solid play over the last week.
“I think he hit me for about three or them four tonight of them tonight,” Tolliver told CSN’s Kayte Christensen following the game. “I told him, ‘If you want an assist, just pass it to me.’ I told him that about three or four times. He kept listening and I kept knocking them down.”
Tolliver finished the night with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from behind the arc in 31 minutes of action.
“Professional - he can sit five games in a row and his name is called and he’s going to come out and play like it’s his last game,” Cousins said of Tolliver. “True professional. He’s always ready to play.”
Point guard Ty Lawson made a huge impact as well. The 29-year-old speedster came off the bench to score 15 points and hand out four assists. Over the last few wins, it’s been Lawson and not starter Darren Collison who has finished games for coach Joerger.
“We’re just playing for each other,” Tolliver said. “Obviously it’s a little different mix on the court, but once you decide that you’re going to play for each other and play unselfishly, things happen in the right way,”
Tolliver and Lawson did the heavy lifting on the offensive side of the ball and Garrett Temple was asked to slow down the red-hot Zach LaVine. Temple did what he could, but LaVine is coming into his own as a player and on Friday night, he was spectacular.
LaVine dropped in a game-high 40 points on 7-of-12 shooting from long range. He’s a super athlete that continues to refine his offensive skill set.
While LaVine went off for big numbers, Temple still managed to run a positive plus/minus, finishing the night a plus-seven. He added nine points, six rebounds and four assists off the bench.
It seems like someone new is stepping up for Sacramento every game and their second unit is playing extremely well right now. The Kings reserves outscored Minnesota’s bench Friday night 45-11 and once again helped lead the Kings to victory.
“Our bench has been incredible this year,” Cousins said. “They’re stepping up, they’re ready to play and when they’re not playing, they’re great cheerleaders on the bench.”
The Kings return home to face the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at Golden 1 Center. This is their first three-game win streak of the season. At 13-17, they sit just four games under .500 and they play nine of their next 11 constests in Sacramento.