He thought he’d hit the game winner.
Then Rudy Gay watched as the ball rimmed out with 0.9 seconds left and the game tied at 95.
“I actually thought it went in,” said Gay of is 18-foot jumper at the end of regulation. “I looked back and saw it didn’t go in.”
It didn’t and the Kings would go on to lose to the Houston Rockets, 113-109, in overtime at Sleep Train Arena Thursday night.
A lot of responsibility is on Gay these days. The Kings (11-12) have played the last eight games without DeMarcus Cousins and fell to 2-6 without their starting center who is out recovering from viral meningitis.
This was a game the Kings were in position to win, up 95-90 with less than a minute to play after leading by 12 in the second half.
But Gay missed a three pointer with 36.9 seconds left in regulation and James Harden tied the game wit ha three over Harden with 20.5 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
“A lot of this game is on me,” Gay said. “I’ve got come out and be aggressive early. They’re trapping me all around the court but I still have to find a way to get my teammates open more and also get myself going a little bit.”
Gay’s final stat line was 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and four turnovers.
Daren Collison led the Kings with 24 points and also had seven assists. Ben McLemore had 21 points and Derrick Williams had 17 points off the bench. Jason Thompson added 13 points and 15 rebounds.
But the Kings will be hard pressed to win without Cousins if Gay cannot get going.
“The ball goes to me and I think it’s my job to get people open and make plays, pick and choose when I want to score,” Gay said. “And I’ve been trying to put an effort in to being a playmaker and I think sometimes I get caught up in that. At the end of the game I’ve got to be more aggressive.”
The last play of regulation was on Gay. He had the ball at the top of the key and drove to his right to create space for the jumper, a shot Kings coach Michael Malone was fine with.
“With DeMarcus Cousins out, Rudy Gay is going to be the guy that if we’re in a tie game like that, I”m going to put the ball in his hands,” Malone said. “He gets a very high-percentage shot, for him, and if he makes it, then great ... whether he’s 10-for-10 or 0-for-10, I still have confidence in Rudy in most situations.”
Gay is the focal point of opposing defenses without Cousins, which makes it hard on him, too.
“It’s tough,” Gay said. “I think I could have forced the issue a little more in the fourth but that opened it up for Ben and D.C. to have good games. But I’ve got to join the party somehow. Especially with Cuz being out I’ve got to be more effective.”
Harden takes over
The Kings had no answer for Harden, who scored the first 10 points of overtime for the Rockets to give them a cushion the Kings could not recover from.
Harden finished with 44 points and eight assists. Harden’s 12 points in overtime tied an arena record.
Malone said he was at fault for Harden’s play: “I take a lot of the defensive blame .. I did a poor job of helping our guys out and making the necessary defensive adjustments, though. I definitely took a hit tonight.”
“We didn’t do a good job in adjusting to James Harden. He kicked our (butts) tonight and he got whatever he wanted. There was no resistance and he got to the rim for layup after layup.”
“Our defense on James kind of lapsed. He dominated the ball, eh made plays, he got people involved, he beat us tonight.”
Turnovers ... again
You’ve read this before. The Kings hurt themselves with turnovers.
The Kings allowed 27 points off their 22 turnovers in the loss.
Thompson spoke on the decision for the Kings to come out in “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts before the game:
“Supporting the movement and obviously it’s a touchy situation ... a team we felt like would collectively support the movement.”
The shirts are about Eric Eric Garner, who died in July after being put in a chokehold by New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Last week, a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo in connection with Garner’s death, sparking protests across the country.
“I can’t breathe,” were Garner’s last words before his death.