So it’s true, you really do need a bad guy.
At least that’s the perception of Matt Barnes, though none of his teammates would call him that.
Their praise was plentiful again Sunday after Barnes came off the bench to give the Kings the edge they often lack to start games and help Sacramento win its third consecutive game, 105-99 over the New Orleans Pelicans at Golden 1 Center on Sunday night.
Barnes helped slow down New Orleans All-Star Anthony Davis, helping limit Davis to 11 points in the second half after he scored 21 in the first half.
The Kings finished this homestand 4-2, much better than the 1-6 mark in their last one.
Whether it be perspective, providing motivation through sharp words, or even a technical foul to get his teammates’ attention (which he did Sunday), coach Dave Joerger said Barnes gives the Kings that and more.
“The importance of being around the league and knowing, ‘Hey we’ve got something going, a little momentum, let’s not take a step back tonight’ or, ‘Hey let’s finish out the homestand’ or whatever it might be,” Joerger said. “he’s always giving those guys something. Now after the amount of season that we’ve had, guys look for it from him.”
The Kings needed that from Barnes on Sunday. Again, the Kings trailed by double digits in the first half (13 points).
The bench provided a spark and the energy spread to the starters in the third quarter. The Kings took control with a 13-0 run to go up 66-56.
“Our second unit has played well,” Barnes said. “We’re starting to jell and we definitely know that’s our energy group. But I think to be a consistent team, to be a playoff team, we need to get out the gates a little bit stronger and start working toward the full 48 minutes.”
Darren Collison had a strong first half, scoring 16 of his 20 points. He also had eight assists.
DeMarcus Cousins was called for a technical foul, his 17th of the season, which puts him one away from a second one-game suspension.
Cousins got the technical with 1:06 left in the first quarter after getting tangled up with Pelicans forward Donatas Motiejunas and accidentally hitting him in the face.
Cousins collected himself by running toward the Kings locker room then returning. He finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.
Collison said Barnes, the “jack of all trades,” has been the key to the Kings’ recent success. Sacramento has won four of five.
“He’s going to give you defense, he’s going to give you toughness,” Collison said. “You saw him for a few minutes run the point while I was out. His IQ is good, he’s talking out there on the court. He’s doing everything he can to help this team win. And you can just put him out there and he’s a player. ... I think he’s our MVP this week.”
A lot of that had to do with defense. Joerger said Barnes’ role defending Davis was key. It helps that Barnes has no problem mixing it up with game’s best players.
“He’s obviously one of the most talented players in the game,” Barnes said of Davis. “I just want to try to be physical with him, make him work. He’s used to being able to beat bigger guys off the dribble so if I stay under him and really just make him shoot over me, that was the way we were able to slow him down.”
Cousins said what Barnes does can’t be measured by statistics. It was Barnes who told Cousins to get his head in the game, which he did in Friday’s win over Atlanta after Cousins was in an obvious funk.
Barnes had 12 points, five rebounds and three assists Sunday.
“Matt does all the small things that we need on this team,” Cousins said. “He’s a junkyard dog, plain and simple. There’s a reason he’s been in this league (14) years, there’s a reason teams always want him on their team. The hustle and grit and toughness he plays with on the nightly, that’s just not something you see every night from a player. I believe every team would love to have a Matt Barnes on their team.”
Barnes might have the reputation of a hothead, but he’s even-keeled with his teammates. But he’ll stay on them about the slow starts, and preaches the need to play with energy all the time.
“Play consistent, play hard, we’ll be fine,” Barnes said. “We have a lot of talent, a lot of people are hurt but guys are stepping up and doing a good job. ... If our energy level stays consistent, we’ll keep winning.”