So there was a championship contender playing tonight in Sacramento. That team is not the Sacramento Kings. The Cleveland Cavaliers flexed their muscle, building a huge early lead, and lazily coasted their way to victory.
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with a marvelous game, scoring 26 points on 16 shots alongside 11 assists and 8 rebounds. Cousins manned both the high and low post, picking out shooters and cutters all over the court when the double team came. Rudy Gay and Ty Lawson came alive in the second half to boost the Kings, scoring 23 and 17 points respectively.
Unfortunately for the Kings, the first quarter proved to be the most critical juncture of the game. The Cavaliers raced out to 32 first quarter points, shooting and scoring merrily as they are prone to do, behind a strong early performance from Kevin Love. But the key to the deficit was that the Kings were both ice cold from the field while also inventing new ways to turn the ball over. Cousins picked up two early fouls and had to sit from the four minute mark. The Kings shot 26% from the field in the first quarter and had 9 turnovers, leading to a miserable 15 point first quarter.
From that point on, it was a game of catch-up. The Kings did manage to take better care of the ball, coughing it up 12 times over the last three quarters and only 7 times in the second half. They also shot the ball much better, 65% from the field and 55% from three in the second half. The Cavs just kept plowing onwards. LeBron James showed off his tremendous passing skills by hitting his wealth of weaponry like Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver (4 threes each) again and again. And especially when the Cavs go small with Channing Frye (2/5 from three) at the center spot, there’s just no way to guard them unless you’re perfect. Which the Kings are not. The Kings cut the lead to single digits several times, but a few bombs would frequently push the lead back out to 15-19 points.
Ultimately, its hard to get too upset about this loss. The Cavs are operating on a different plane right now. With the Blazers dropping a game to the Magic, the Kings still remain a half game behind for the eighth seed in the West. And don’t look now, but the Pelicans (6-4 in their last ten) and the Timberwolves (5-5) are charging hard behind.
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