LeBron James was right. The Cavs need an additional playmaker. But they also need a big man who can do something about the grown man game of DeMarcus Cousins who, frankly, did whatever he wanted to do against Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Cousins nearly had a triple double, coming up one assist short as Cousins was the go-to player in the 4th quarter and overtime to send the Cavs reeling into the black hole they have buried their game in since the calendar turned to 2017.
It was the Kings and not the Cavs that came up with big plays. Arron Aflalo’s big three with 17 seconds left in overtime. Garrett Temple’s hustle to save a ball that looked like it was going out of bounds. And Cousins, 28 and 10, doing just about everything. There was nothing the Cavs could do to silence the big man and the best thing that Cousins did in the second half was keep his emotions in check.
Basketball, on the margins, is a game of psychology, a game of the mind. Who has the better mind game, when things are equal, wins the game.
The Cavs were atrocious at the free throw line and the Kings took advantage. More importantly, when the Kings, and Cousins specifically, were the recipient of bad calls, Cousins kept the game face on, kept on playing, didn’t get distracted.
The victory pushed the Kings to 2-2 on this eight game road trip. It also put them as a legitimate contender for the 8th seed that would, if it happened, break that long Kings curse of playoff watching at home. The Kings are a game and a half out of the 8th seed. How they fare on this trip will tell everything about their ability to close the final two months after the All-Star break.
What made this a special win for the Kings was they trailed by 5 in overtime and didn’t panic. They trailed by 10 in the 4th and didn’t panic. They maintained their poise even with LeBron James mean mugging them on every possession, and, naturally, James being brilliant and delivering a triple double.
Arron Afflalo played 40 minutes. Demarcus Cousins played 39 minutes and Garrett Temple played 39 minutes. In an ordinary NBA game that wouldn’t be that much of an issue except the Kings have three back-to-backs on this trip and have to figure out how to keep everyone fresh. Fatigue will probably be an issue.
What wasn’t an issue was the Kings kept pace with the Cavs. The Cavs had 47 rebounds. So did the Kings. The Cavs had 29 assists. So did the Kings. The Cavs had 9 steals. The Kings had 13. The Cavs had 18 turnovers. The Kings had 11.
Cousins led the team in assists, rebounds, and points in an entertaining game that had 16 lead changes and 12 ties. It reinforced that the Kings have the talent, system and mental toughness to play with any team in the NBA. The question always has been can they close teams out? Do they have mental maturity to execute down the stretch?
The answer was yes in Northern Ohio on a Wednesday night.
photo via llananba