Ty Lawson jump-starts the Kings by keeping it simple.
He runs with the ball, and his teammates sprint to keep up.
Lawson did that Monday night, helping the Kings overcome an 11-point first-quarter deficit and end their season-worst five-game losing streak with a 109-104 win over the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Lawson usually plays with the second unit, which saved the Kings on Monday. , Anthony Tolliver, Matt Barnes, Willie Cauley-Stein, rookie Malachi Richardson and Lawson started the second quarter on a 16-6 run to tie the score 44-44 and get the Kings into a flow.
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Lawson matched his season high with 19 points and added six assists with no turnovers.
Besides his stats, Lawson directed a unit that included Richardson, who just began to receive significant playing time Saturday at Chicago, and Cauley-Stein, who had been out of the rotation until recently.
“I think everybody in the second unit knows their role,” Lawson said. “When Willie’s in, he’s going to run the court, pick-and-roll and we’re going to try to get him the ball right there (around the rim) where he can finish. Wings are running. Malachi, he’s another playmaker, honestly. He can get to the basket and he can shoot. I’m just trying to put everybody in a position where they can succeed and everybody is playing well.”
Led by Lawson, Cauley-Stein (season-high 12 points) and Barnes (10 points), the bench had 52 points and only two of the Kings’ 14 turnovers. Richardson had five points and an assist.
The Kings sustained their momentum in the second half and held off the Pistons. But it all began with Lawson and the reserves.
“It’s probably the way he plays and it’s probably that group,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said of Lawson’s impact. “Our other group is a tad bit slower. But Matt’s a runner, Anthony’s a runner, and depending which guard we keep in there, and Malachi is getting his feet wet and learning. And if you play with Ty, you can’t help but want to run because he will pitch it to you. And that’s the best motivation. Everybody wants to score.”
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 22 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and two steals. He had an off-night shooting (8 for 21), but he made two blocks and sank a critical baseline jumper with 38.8 seconds to play after Detroit cut the deficit to four.
Cousins credited Lawson, Cauley-Stein and Richardson for the victory and praised Lawson for the role he has played all season.
“If there’s anybody with a green light just to go play, it’s him,” Cousins said. “I love what he does for this team. He’s a spark off the bench for us. He gets us going when we’re in slumps.”
Joerger said it was “probably the best game Willie’s played all year. Same thing for Malachi.” Both are young players the Kings wamt to develop, but minutes for them have been scarce until the last two games.
“I think all the work I’ve been putting in has been starting to show. It’s starting to pay off,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m getting the trust of my teammates and my coaches, and that’s everything in this game. In hoop, if your coaches trust you, you’re going to hoop.”
Medical update — Rudy Gay had surgery Monday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York to repair a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon.
Gay was injured during the third quarter Wednesday against Indiana and is out for the season.
Long Sunday – The Kings stayed in Chicago on Saturday night, opting to take the quick flight to Michigan on Sunday. But they were delayed in Chicago for more than seven hours because of the weather and mechanical issues with their plane.
And instead of flying into Pontiac, which is closer to Auburn Hills, the Kings had to fly into Detroit and take a 45-minute bus ride to their hotel, arriving after 11 p.m.