It’s a crucial season for the Sacramento Kings, a team with talent and seemingly all the right pieces, that just don’t seem to fit together most of the time. But wins like theirs, on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder, once again makes you wonder whether or not this is the season they find their way back into the playoffs.
For better or worse, DeMarcus Cousins makes and breaks this team. And when he can’t be stopped while he doesn’t lose his focus on defense, the Kings are more than just a team hoping to finish 8th in the West. They can be really good, as they were in a 116-104 win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City, making the most of Kevin Durant not being on the floor due to a toe injury, that shouldn’t keep him away for too long according to reports.
Cousins had 33 points and 19 rebounds as the Thunder find out once again that teams with good centers seem to pick them apart. Russell Westbrook was having one of those days, shooting 6-of-23 from the field while not doing too well with Rajon Rondo guarding him. With him doing that poorly, the Kings, playing without Omri Casspi, had the right kind of path towards the upset, which puts them 1.5 games behind the Utah Jazz for 8th in a weird looking Western conference.
Marco Belinelli scored 21 points, Rudy Gay finished with 16 and Rondo scored 13 while adding 19 assists, improving his average to an NBA best 11.6 per game. He also finished with 5 steals, and like a lot of players in this league, his focus on defense is what puts him at his highest level, and allows him to have such a smooth time offensively. Westbrook, who had 15 assists, finished with 7 turnovers while Rondo finished with six.
Getting stops defensively will determine if the Kings are going to be a playoff team or not this season, right along with Cousins not losing his head. George Karl isn’t exactly someone who cares a whole lot about defense, so maybe outgunning opponents will have to do the trick. For the first time in a while, the Kings have the kind of individual talent that puts them within the top 8 in the West. Turning it into a team-like production that works is the real trick. At 14-20, it’s clear they’re still not there.