Here are three takeaways from the Sacramento Kings’ 123-113 win over the Miami Heat on Monday night at American Airlines Arena:
Willie wanted it
Willie or won’t he? Fans and front-office executives alike have wondered if Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein would ever demonstrate the consistency they’ve always wanted from him.
On Monday night in South Beach, Cauley-Stein gave them exactly what they desired.
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Willie went hard to the rim. Willie showed a soft touch around the basket. Willie wanted this win in the worst way.
Cauley-Stein had a huge second half and finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, leading the running and gunning, up-and-coming Kings to their third consecutive victory and fourth in five games.
Cauley-Stein was good in the first half, posting eight points and seven rebounds. In the second half, he was great, running in transition, fighting for position, scoring on a variety of shots and skying for crucial rebounds.
He also did a nice job of making Hassan Whiteside disappear. Whiteside bully-balled the Kings for 11 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots in the first half. In the second half, he was held to five points, nine rebounds and one blocked shot.
Kings overcome poor start
The Kings nearly paid a heavy price for an awful start and an ugly finish to the first quarter.
On their first nine possessions, they had three shots blocked, two passes stolen and two air balls. The Heat took advantage, punishing the Kings with a 10-2 run.
Miami stretched its lead to 10 before Sacramento battled back to get within one on the second of two transition dunks by Cauley-Stein, but the Heat quickly regained control after Kings coach Dave Joerger experimented with an unusual lineup.
The Kings trailed by three when Joerger went to a lineup consisting of Frank Mason, Yogi Ferrell, Justin Jackson, Marvin Bagley III and Kosta Koufos, who missed the first six games with a strained hamstring. It didn’t go well.
The Heat outscored the Kings 8-0 over the final 1:11 to carry a 28-17 lead into the second period. The Kings trailed by 12 before staging 8-0 and 14-3 runs to get back into the game.
‘Buddy Buckets’ gets hot
The Kings trailed by one when Buddy Hield made a 3-pointer to give them a 56-54 lead early in the second half, starting a scoring barrage that propelled Sacramento.
Hield later hit a pull-up jumper to put the Kings up by six, threw down a dunk to extend the lead to nine and buried a transition 3-pointer for a 12-point lead. He capped a 14-point third quarter with another long ball.
Hield finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists.