This is the kind of life Dave Joerger has been looking for from the Kings.
The dunks are fine. He’ll take 3-pointers. But Joerger wasn’t seeing enough deflections or corralling of loose balls, the kind of plays that can decide close games.
DeMarcus Cousins gave the Kings life, his fingertips deflecting an inbound pass to help the Kings end a four-game losing streak and escape by one-tenth of a second with a 102-99 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday at Golden 1 Center.
DeMarre Carroll inbounded the ball with 2.4 seconds to play, and Cousins deflected the pass. Terrence Ross chased down the ball and made a deep three pointer at the buzzer, which appeared to send the game into overtime.
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Cousins was adamant he had touched the ball and the clock did not start on time. After the play was reviewed at the NBA’s replay center in New Jersey, it was ruled 2.5 seconds had elapsed on the play, nullifying Ross’ make because he released the shot one-tenth of a second too late.
“First of all, the (replay) trigger was a clock malfunction,” said official Mike Callahan. “We had the ball deflected, and the clock didn’t start.”
Callahan added that “a digital timer on the screen in the replay center, from different angles” determined the amount of time that had elapsed.
And with that, the Kings had won, thanks to the kind of gritty defense Joerger hadn’t seen enough during the losing streak. That doesn’t mean the Kings weren’t nervous and expecting overtime. Like most struggling teams, they assumed the call would not go their way.
“I knew I tipped it. I knew he didn’t get it off in time,” Cousins said. “I knew the clock didn’t start on time. I also knew we were going into overtime. That’s how things usually work for us, meaning the Kings.”
Why might Cousins feel that way? On Nov. 13, 2014, the Kings thought they’d won a game at Memphis against Joerger’s Grizzlies when it appeared Ryan Hollins tipped an inbound pass by Vince Carter to Courtney Lee with 0.3 seconds to play to end the game. It was ruled Hollins did not tip the ball, Lee’s shot counted, and the Kings lost.
The Kings later lost their protest of that game.
On Sunday, “I really wasn’t expecting things go the right but way but it did, and I’ll take it,” Cousins said.
Joerger said he didn’t think Ross had enough time to recover a deflected pass and get off a shot.
“My belief was, whether my opinion is (right) or not, was that it would not be overturned and that we would play overtime,” Joerger said. “So hats off to the NBA. They clearly got it right.”
Joerger was just as please by the Kings’ defense in the second half. After giving up 63 points in the first half, Sacramento held Toronto to 36 points in the second.
Toronto shot 40 percent for the game. DeMar DeRozan, who entered Sunday as the NBA’s leading scorer, was held to a season-low 12 points. He’s been held below 30 points only three times this season – once by Cleveland and in two losses to the Kings.
The Kings used a new starting lineup of Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes and Cousins as Joerger started a small lineup to energize the team.
Gay led the Kings with 23 points. He also had nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Cousins, slowed by foul trouble in the first half, had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Collison had 15 points and nine assists. Arron Afflalo had 14 points in his first game as a reserve.