Sometimes the coach can only sit and watch as the game plays out.
Asked what the offense might look like without Rudy Gay for Wednesday night’s game against the Houston Rockets, Kings coach George Karl was honest.
“You think I know the answer?” he asked. “I think Cuz will get a lot of touches.”
Cuz, as in DeMarcus Cousins, did get a lot of touches and had one of the best all-around games of his career, posting his second triple double as a pro.
But it wasn’t enough as the Kings lost their third straight game, 115-111, at Toyota Center.
Cousins had 24 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists, six blocks and three steals. But he and the Kings were outdone by Houston’s James Harden, who scored a career-high 51 points.
While the Kings spend the rest of this season learning what works best for the future, they still can’t figure out one thing: how to take care of the ball. The Kings had 21 turnovers that led to 27 Rockets points.
“We have so many silly mistakes,” Karl said. “We don’t value the possessions.”
So even though they shot 50 percent and scored a season-high 72 points in the paint, the Kings fell short.
“They took advantage of us and our turnovers, and it kind of bit us in the butt at the end of the game,” Cousins said. “Even with those mistakes, I think we did enough to win the game.”
Cousins was a big reason the Kings came back from a 19-point second-quarter deficit. His assists and blocks matched career highs. He also became only the eighth player since 1985-86 to record a triple double with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.
Throw in his blocks, and the only player with comparable stats in a game since 1985-86 is Charles Barkley. He had 31 points, 21 rebounds, nine assists and seven blocks Nov. 28, 1986, for Philadelphia against Portland.
“I came in tonight knowing I needed my team to have a great chance of winning this game,” Cousins said. “It wasn’t a game where I could come in and try to do it all by myself. I think a lot of guys made plays tonight. A lot of guys stepped up.”
That’s what Karl wanted with Gay sidelined by a concussion and starting point guard Darren Collison recovering from surgery for a core muscle injury.
On Monday, Gay was struck inadvertently with an elbow from Memphis’ Marc Gasol as both were going for the ball. Gay is out indefinitely as he goes through the NBA’s concussion protocol before he can be cleared to return.
Gay’s absence makes Karl’s job that much tougher.
“It’s not a fun scenario when you’re trying to figure out who to play and what plays to run for everybody, how to get a flow in the game,” Karl said.
Nevertheless, the Kings’ offense flowed Wednesday. They had 30 assists after totaling 30 assists in their previous two games. Seven Kings scored in double figures.
What they didn’t have was an answer for Harden, who matched his career high for three-pointers, making 8 of 9.. He recorded his league-leading ninth game of at least 40 points this season and added eight rebounds and six assists.
“Harden had one of those games where every shot he took, he made,” Karl said. “From 27 feet half the time, and there’s not much you can do about covering that shot.”
Harden, who entered the game averaging 27.2 points, second-best in the league, made 16 of 25 shots.
“If the shot is there, if it’s available, if the attack is there, then I take it,” Harden said. “If not, I find the assists. I’ll find one of my teammates open, and I’ll pass the ball. Similar to every single game I play in.”