Sacramento Kings

Without Cousins, Kings must play team ball to win games

Rudy Gay, driving past Los Angeles’ Robert Sacre on Tuesday, said the Kings are headed in the right direction: “We have to find some way to string some wins together, somehow, some way.”
Rudy Gay, driving past Los Angeles’ Robert Sacre on Tuesday, said the Kings are headed in the right direction: “We have to find some way to string some wins together, somehow, some way.” The Associated Press

As the Kings navigate life without DeMarcus Cousins, they have to be reminded to do what works.

Losing the player who is considered be one of the NBA’s best centers is not cause for the Kings to show what they can do on their own.

The Kings have shown they can be successful without Cousins when they play team basketball. The most recent case was Tuesday’s game against the Lakers in Los Angeles, where they had 15 assists on 20 made shots in the first half to build a 55-46 halftime lead.

In the second half, the Kings had only five assists, the offense sputtered and the Lakers rallied for a 98-95 victory.

Until Cousins returns from his bout with viral meningitis, the Kings have to play a more team-oriented style on offense and work together to make up for all they lose with their star out of the lineup.

If not, the Kings can expect more nights, and results, like they had in Los Angeles.

“Sometimes people forget why you have success, and some people get bored with success, which I never figured,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “We got stops in that first half, and we got out and ran, we threw the ball ahead, we made the extra pass, we made them work. As the game went on, we became less of a passing team and more of a dribbling team. Less of a trusting team and more of a one-on-one team.”

Even with Cousins in the lineup, the Kings are prone to falling into lapses of overdribbling and one-on-one basketball. The difference is Cousins covered up some of that by getting the ball and scoring or getting fouled. Cousins’ ability to score off offensive rebounds also made up for bad shots.

“He bails us out on offense,” said guard Darren Collison. “He gives us another body that rebounds. He’s the best rebounder in the game, so we definitely miss him. We have other guys who can pretty much rebound the same way, so this is no excuse. We have guys who can step up and fill that void.”

Teams have feasted on second-chance points against the Kings in recent losses. The Lakers had 21 such points to help rally from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter.

The Lakers also benefited from the Kings committing turnovers with 21 points off 16 Kings’ mistakes.

That’s something tonight’s opponent, the Houston Rockets, will take advantage of to get out in transition and make open three-pointers.

“Those turnovers had nothing to do with who was healthy and playing, and who was not,” Malone said. “The guys on the floor have to do a much better job of valuing the basketball, and our point guards have to do a better job of getting us organized, and getting us into sets, so we are all working together. When we get into random basketball, now you have five individuals out there and no one knows what’s going on. That’s very tough to play effective and efficiently.”

Rudy Gay remains resolute in the Kings’ prospects, in spite of recent losses.

“We have to find some way to string some wins together, somehow, some way,” Gay said. “We have to go out there and lead by example every night. I have to play as hard as I can. We’ve grown and we’re getting smarter, so I do like the fact that we are going in the right direction.”

Finding efficient offense is harder without Cousins as his absence removes a player that commands double teams. That puts more focus on Gay to create. He’s been a better facilitator this season, but if all five Kings aren’t in sync, you’ll see more play like the second half against the Lakers.

“That’s a sign of a young team, where when things get a little tough and adverse, everybody starts thinking ‘me’ instead of thinking ‘we,’ ” Malone said. “I think in those situations, we have to get back to doing what we do best, and that is execute, share, trust and pass up good shots to try to get great shots.”

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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