January 29, 2017, 1:36 pm
The Kings showed signs of life this week. After going just 1-3 in the week prior, the Kings bounced back to go an impressive 3-1. All four games could have easily gone either way with the largest margin of victory being just five points. Two of the four games went to overtime with the Kings going 1-1 in those contests.
The week started with a solid, 109-104 victory over the Pistons in Detroit. The Kings put forth 48 minutes of solid basketball and some nice bench play which helped propel them to a win down the stretch. DeMarcus Cousins struggled in this game a bit but he still put up 22 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in 32 minutes of play.
The most impressive win of the week came against the defending champs. The Kings dominated the first five or so minutes but things eventually leveled out over the duration of the half. This game really was punch for punch and the Kings wouldn’t go away down the stretch. Cousins struggled with his shot most of the night but he came alive in the fourth quarter and in overtime to help the Kings edge the Cavs, 116-112, with Arron Afflalo hitting the clutch three to seal it.
The only loss of the week was in Indiana against the Pacers. The Kings were up by 16 points at one stage and were also up by 11 with six minutes to go in the fourth but they crumbled and went on to lose in overtime, 111-115. They really should have won this game but they went away from what was working and it hurt them. DeMarcus found his shot and had another monster game but Darren Collison was the stand out dropping 26 points on 4-of-6 from three.
The week concluded in Charlotte with a, 109-106 win over the Hornets. The Kings played solid basketball for the duration of the game but let it slip a little in the fourth. Nonetheless, DeMarcus Cousins’ floater with 14.3 seconds left was enough to give them the win. Darren Collison was yet again on fire posting 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Three takeaways from the week:
1. Have the Kings found an identity on offense?
One reason for the Kings’ impressive play this week was their offensive execution. While it wasn’t perfect, the offense was flowing through DeMarcus Cousins in the post and the other players were doing a great job of moving without the ball. We got to witness first hand how dominant a post initiated offense run by Cousins is. He struggled at times during the week but he was still generating good looks for both himself and his teammates. Teams were throwing double, even triple teams at Cousins most of the week and it left players wide open on the perimeter for many uncontested shots. It was incredibly effective and it’s something the Kings need to do more of.
One complaint would be that they didn’t run it enough. They weren’t as consistent as they should have been and they would tend to strive away from what was working at pivotal times, especially in the fourth quarter. It explains why the Kings would have lead through three-quarters but then let the other team back in down the stretch. Consistency is the key because if the Kings want to continue to win games they need to consistently run that effective post offense through Cousins.
2. Welcome back, Darren Collison
With Rudy Gay out, the Kings needed someone to step up and be the secondary scorer and Collison certainly stepped up. He averaged 19.5 points on 61.7 percent shooting from the field and 65.0 percent from three in four games this week. He was lights out hitting pull-up jumpers, spot-up threes and driving by guys to the rim. It was one of the best stretches of his career and he was a big time beneficiary of the post initiated offense run through Cousins.
Collison got a ton of wide open jumpers off DeMarcus Cousins’ passes and you can expect that to continue as long as the Kings stick with that offense. Cousins’ immense talent means he will get double-teamed almost every night and you can count on guys like Collison to be open on a nightly basis. Collison likely won’t remain this hot, but we can get used to seeing similar production from him moving forward. He has a great opportunity to be Cousins’ right hand man on offense and he’s more than up to the task.
3. Strong bench play
Another reason for the Kings’ success this week was their strong bench play. Dave Joerger has certainly found something with the five-man unit of Ty Lawson, Malachi Richardson, Matt Barnes, Anthony Tolliver and Willie Cauley-Stein. You could almost say that this unit outplayed the starting five if it weren’t for Matt Barnes. Joerger would sometimes mix-and-match this unit with a starter or two but on the whole they were impressive to say the least.
Malachi Richardson and Willie Cauley-Stein have worked their way into the rotation and they have proved their worth. Malachi has shown a confidence which is rare to find in rookie. His ability to create a shot or spot up is so key to that second unit and it’s essential in order for them to function well. Cauley-Stein has caught a second wind and his energy on both ends is a welcome sight to see. Ty Lawson continues to do his thing and is playing at his highest level since his days with the Nuggets and Anthony Tolliver bounced back from a quiet week last week.
Player Power Rankings:
#1 – DeMarcus Cousins (Last week: #1)
It was a monster week for Cousins who might possibly be playing the best basketball of his career over recent weeks. He averaged 27.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks on 44.4 percent shooting from the field. His scoring has remained steady but it’s his rebounding and passing numbers that have sky rocketed over recent weeks, especially this week. These numbers are certainly sustainable if the Kings continue to run the offense through Cousins on a nightly basis.
#2 – Darren Collison (Last week: #4)
What a week it was for Darren Collison. Along with Cousins, he also might be playing the best basketball of his career over the past week. As mentioned above, Collison averaged 19.5 points on 61.7 percent shooting and 65.0 percent from three. There were many factors in the Kings’ impressive play this week but Darren Collison’s play was certainly a big one. Let’s hope he can keep this up.
#3 – Arron Afflalo (Last week: #6)
Afflalo was another beneficiary to Cousins dominant play. He has been solid at small forward and is a much more effective player when spotting up from three or mid-range. Cousins’ passing ability and the fact he gets double-teamed almost every time down on offense means Afflalo will continue to get open looks. He shot 51.3 percent on threes this week and while it would be tough to keep that percentage up, he can certainly remain somewhere in the neighborhood.
#4 – Ty Lawson (Last week: #3)
He continues to impress as the Kings’ go to guard off the bench. His quickness and speed is tough to handle for opposing point guards and it means he’s getting to the rim on a recurring basis and also making his jump shots when needed. He posted averages of 11.3 points and 6.3 assists in four games this week and he shot 46.7 percent from the field. Lawson is getting better and better with each game he plays and it really is a promising sight to see.
#5 – Garrett Temple (Last week: #2)
It’s a slight drop this week for Temple but that’s more so due to the fact that other players have stepped up. Temple continues to bring his hustle and effort on defense and remains a pest for opposing players. His numbers were down this week and he shot just 34.6 percent from the field but you can put it down to an off week for Temple who should bounce back.
#6 – Willie Cauley-Stein (Last week: #8)
Welcome back to the rotation Willie Cauley-Stein. He started playing more significant minutes in the week prior but this week he looks as though he’s found himself a permanent role in the rotation which is great news. His energy is exactly what the Kings need off the bench and his rebounding, which isn’t perfect still, has certainly improved after his poor showing at the start of the season. He has showcased a nice little jump shot and his free throw shooting was solid too as he shot 70 percent on the week.
#7 – Anthony Tolliver (Last week: #7)
Anthony Tolliver bounced back from his rough outing last week to put forth an efficient week. While his numbers weren’t spectacular, he still shot an efficient 52.2 percent from the field which is what the Kings need from him. His best game of the week came against the Hornets where he dropped 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 30 minutes off the bench. He also shot 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-8 from three.
#8 – Malachi Richardson (Last week: #9)
One thing is for sure, the kid can play. Malachi Richardson proved he belongs with some solid play off the bench this week. His scoring is essential to the second unit and he proved that he can be a somewhat reliable source of offense moving forward. His defense was better than advertised too as he made some solid plays on the defensive end, notably his play on Ramon Sessions against the Hornets. He looks like he has found a home in the rotation for the time being.
#9 – Kosta Koufos (Last week: #5)
Koufos slid a bit this week. It wasn’t because of poor play as such, but mainly because of other players starting to show signs of consistency. Koufos started in all four games this week but he only played 17.5 minutes per game. You can put this down to the re-emergence of Willie Cauley-Stein and the fact the Anthony Tolliver is a better fit next to Cousins. Willie’s play of late makes Koufos expendable in trade talks and there is no denying there will be interest in him as he can help make a difference on some playoff ready teams. It is something to keep an eye on as we near the February 23rd trade deadline.
#10 – Matt Barnes (Last week: #10)
He made a few nice plays here and there, but Matt Barnes continues to be as detrimental to this team as anyone ever has. It seems he manages to find any way possible to hold this team down. The semi good news is that he only played 19.5 minutes per game this week which is an improvement on the week prior but it’s still too high. There are questions beginning to surface as to whether he is an NBA level player anymore and any argument certainly has a good case.
Injured: Rudy Gay (Achilles) and Omri Casspi (calf)
Out of the rotation: Ben McLemore and Skal Labissiere
In Reno: Georgios Papagiannis