What was the lesson learned Wednesday night?
“Just win,” said DeMarcus Cousins. “(Shoot), I’ll take the hit. If it results in this, I’ll take the hit. I’ll be the scapegoat.”
Praise replaced blame as the Kings ended a six-game losing streak by beating the Detroit Pistons 101-92 at Sleep Train Arena.
In a week that has featured calls for a players-only meeting, loud confrontation after games, a postgame locker room visit from a platinum-selling rapper and an actual meeting with players, coaches and management, the Kings put together a solid showing and held an opponent fewer than 100 points for the first time this season.
It was Cousins who called for a players-only meeting and who on Wednesday apologized in a statement for his harsh words after Monday’s loss in the locker room.
And it was Cousins who led the Kings with 33 points and matched his career high by making four three-pointers. He also had nine rebounds.
Rudy Gay had a season-high 25 points. Rajon Rondo played all 48 minutes for the second consecutive game and posted his second triple double in three games with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists.
“I think we moved the ball,” Cousins said. “I think the biggest thing was we were playing some defense which led to our offense. Pretty free-flowing game and everything clicked tonight and I think it started with our defense.”
The Pistons shot 38.2 percent, the lowest for a Kings’ opponent this season.
The Kings hope the victory will begin to ease the angst of the last two weeks. Tensions were high Monday night, but Cousins said positivity prevailed after all the issues were discussed in the Tuesday meeting.
“That’s what families do,” Cousins said.
Gay said the meeting was productive.
“Those meetings are just for everybody to kind of get their feelings out and really kind of hash out what’s best for the team,” Gay said. “We came out of the meeting with a better understanding of each other. If anything, I understand my teammates better.”
By beating the Pistons (5-3), the Kings improved to 2-7. There’s still a ways to go before the team can say it is on course, but a win was badly needed to begin that process.
“I don’t care what type of team you’re on – a newer team, a veteran team – a losing streak is heavy,” said Kings coach George Karl. “There’s an analogy, I stole it from somebody, but there’s a weight, I call it, ‘kill the monkey.’ There’s like a monkey hanging on your back.”
The Kings have high hopes for the season, believing the playoffs are a realistic goal.
Before returning Monday against the Spurs, Cousins missed four games with a strained right Achilles’ tendon. The team has been without backup point guards Darren Collison (strained left hamstring) and Seth Curry (sprained right ankle), which is why Rondo played the entire game again.
Still, Karl understands the frustration.
“It’s no excuse,” Karl said. “We should have won one or two more games. ... It never makes you happy. And you’ve got to be dissatisfied, and you’ve got to be competitive to be frustrated. But in the same sense, you saw a good team tonight play well, play better, compete a little bit more. But there’s a sense we’ve got to get better.”
Curry is expected back as soon as Friday against Brooklyn to help spell Rondo, the first King to have at least 10 assists in three consecutive games since Mike Bibby did so from Dec. 27, 2005, to Jan. 3, 2006.
“No complaints, he’s all in,” Cousins said of Rondo. “What more can you ask for the guy? ... I wish I had his energy.”