The Kings needed to maintain their poise as Friday night’s game got testy in the fourth quarter.
It’s the kind of situation where DeMarcus Cousins has lost his cool and hurt his team.
For sure, Cousins was frustrated. And he took a couple of hard falls.
But Cousins maintained his cool enough to hang around and help the Kings end the Miami Heat’s six-game winning streak with a 108-103 overtime win before the seventh announced sellout crowd of the season at Sleep Train Arena.
The intensity picked up in the fourth quarter as Miami’s lead, which was once 17 points, dwindled and the Kings continued to stay within striking distance.
Cousins fell hard while wrestling LeBron James for the ball with 1:30 to play. Cousins took exception to the fall and jumped up angrily. Kings coach Michael Malone ran onto the court to prevent the incident from escalating.
Cousins had already been called for his league-leading ninth technical foul of the season and one more would have led to his ejection.
“I always want to protect my players and make sure things didn’t escalate,” Malone said. “DeMarcus is way too important to this team and he has to understand down the stretch, close games, we need him and he’s got to maintain his poise, maintain his composure. I thought he settled down a little bit, but he is who he is.”
As it turned out, it was a Heat player who lost his cool
The Kings maintained possession after the foul was called on James, and Mario Chalmers then body-checked Cousins as he ran down the lane. Chalmers was called for a flagrant foul 1 with the Heat leading 89-85.
After Cousins made two free throws, the Kings retained possession because of the flagrant foul, and Rudy Gay made a 14-foot jumper to tie the score with 1:02 left in regulation.
“We played through, kept our heads and made plays,” Cousins said.
James missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the game in regulation.
Cousins proved too much for Miami to handle, finishing with 27 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.
“He’s an emotional player, he hates to lose and he came up with some huge plays,” Malone said of Cousins. “Not just scoring, but offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds and taking charges, which is great to see from him.”
The Heat (22-7) blitzed the Kings (9-19) early, shooting 61.1 percent to lead 32-19 after the first quarter. But Sacramento picked up its defense to hold Miami to 44.2 percent for the game.
“We’ve been preaching defense,” Malone said. “I know we haven’t done it often this year, but (Friday) I thought the guys really bought in after that first quarter.”
The bench helped rally the Kings in the second quarter and cut the deficit to 55-45 at halftime.
James led Miami with 33 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Gay had 26 points for the Kings, and Isaiah Thomas had 22 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.