If the Kings were going to criticize Arron Afflalo, it would have been for his reaction after a huge shot.
Afflalo sank the go-ahead basket on the road against the defending NBA champions to win a game in overtime, then gladly noted he did “nothing” to celebrate.
“They didn’t like my celebration,” he said.
That was no problem. Afflalo’s teammates happily gave him grief after the Kings rallied to shock the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-112 in overtime Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Don’t think for a moment that Afflalo treated his 3-pointer with 17.3 seconds in overtime like any other shot he made in the game. That basket gave the Kings a 115-112 lead en route to their second consecutive victory after a season-worst five-game losing streak. It also sent the struggling Cavaliers to their sixth loss in eight games.
But winning baskets come at different levels.
“There’s degrees of it when you hit one at the buzzer and stuff like that, but it always feels good,” Afflalo said. “Guys made so many plays throughout the day that you just want to cap that moment.”
Perhaps Afflalo was too tired to exult after logging a team-high 40 minutes, often guarding the bigger LeBron James.
Afflalo has stepped in at small forward after Rudy Gay’s season-ending Achilles’ injury.
“Guys are constantly talking to me, trying to help me out,” Afflalo said. “I’m playing the three so I’m a little bit out of position and guys are going to be bigger than me. But it’s all good. I’m just going to compete.”
The Kings rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter and five down in overtime. DeMarcus Cousins’ layup with 3.4 seconds left sent the game into overtime at 104-104. After falling behind 111-106 with 2:30 to play in overtime, the Kings closed the game with a 10-1 run.
Cousins said the team remained encouraged despite the deficits.
“Stay positive” was the message in those situations, Cousins said. “Get the next stop and get the next one after that.”
The Kings did that in overtime, holding Cleveland to 3-for-11 shooting. Then with a chance to win, Cousins found Afflalo.
“I knew they were expecting a shot from me and the reason I made (the pass) was because I saw Kyle Korver ... get lost (defensively) and Arron was wide open and he hit a big shot,” Cousins said.
Cousins had an off night shooting, going 11 for 30. But he finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and three steals. His biggest play was the pass to Afflalo.
“Cuz is obviously super aggressive, but I’m starting to notice he’s always looking, trying to find guys,” Afflalo said. “And he’s fighting through double teams constantly because he plays through them a lot. He’s good. He saw an opportunity to make a play for his teammate, and I knocked it down.”
Afflalo finished with 14 points as the Kings received multiple contributions for the third consecutive game.
Darren Collison had 23 points and five assists. Garrett Temple had 12 points and four steals. Rookie Malachi Richardson, looking better the more he plays, scored a season-high 12 points. Willie Cauley-Stein grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds to go with eight points.
Kings coach Dave Joerger said win or lose, he would have been proud of his team.
“The trust that they’re working on,” Joerger said. “This is the part of winning the game that I would not have to say, but the trust of DeMarcus to find Arron on that play ... he trusted him and he zipped it over there and Arron walked into one and knocked it down.”
James led the Cavaliers with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Kevin Love had 21 points and 16 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving had 20 points and six assists.