As people filed into the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, it felt like the game was secondary. All everyone was talking about was the reports that the Kings could be sold to the Chris Hansen/Steve Ballmer group out of Seattle and moved.
But despite the best efforts of the Maloof family to seemingly follow the “Major League” model to drive attendance down, Kings fans are loyal. They showed up.
And what they got was a very entertaining game. One that was ultimately frustrating for them because the Kings blew a 17-point third quarter lead to lose 117-112 to the Mavericks in overtime.
As it has been all season, the arena was not full for the Kings game (as is true around most arenas during the season). Our own Aaron Bruski was there and said that the crowd fills in nearly three quarters of the seats, which is actually up from most recent games. There seemed to be a push to be there, to show support.
“With everything that has gone on with out team this year the fans have come out and shown really great energy in our building, have booed us when we need to be booed, but cheered us when we played exciting basketball,” Kings coach Keith smart said before the game.
Sacramento fans love the Kings. It’s the owners that they loath.
Of course, the Maloofs weren’t there for the game. They haven’t been at a game for a while.
But the fans were there and as they have been since 1985. And early on they liked what they saw. DeMarcus Cousins had 12 first quarter points while the Mavericks started 1-10 from floor. But the Kings really didn’t take control until the second quarter when they went on a 13-0 run sparked by Tyreke Evans (who finished with 20 points).
By the middle of the third that lead was at 17 points. Then Dallas started to come back, helped in part by the Kings going with a small lineup when they had owned the paint in the first half. It was gradual comeback until a 16-4 fourth-quarter run gave the Mavericks the lead. At the end of that run it was O.J. Mayo in transition and some old-school Vince Carter isolation in the half court that helped the Mavs stretch out to a six point lead with less than a minute to go.
But John Salmons nailed a pull-up three pointer from two feet beyond the arc to cut the lead in half (Salmons was 3-of-12 before that shot). Of course, Salmons also had the offensive foul driving the lane with 16.7 left with the Kings down 100-98 that seemed to doom them. The Kings were forced to foul Mayo and he made one of two, it was 101-98.
That’s when it happened. With 10 seconds left Cousins had the ball, kicked it out to Isaiah Thomas, who missed a three so bad he banked it in. He might even have been fouled. Tie game, 101-101. And after a Dallas miss we were headed to overtime.
It was close there too, 109-109, with minute to go, when Cousins picks up goaltend on Shaun Marion layup. Then next possession with 41 seconds left Cousins was stripped when triple-teamed in the paint, then frustrated pushed Carter in the face knocking him to the ground. Cousins was assessed a flagrant two foul for it and he was ejected, the Mavs got two free throws and the ball. Carter hit both. (My feeling is it was a flagrant one, but we will see what the league office thinks. Either way was exactly the kind of reactionary emotional play Cousins needs to stop making.)
Still the Kings got another chance. After a Vince Carter missed free throw it was 115-112 Mavericks with 15 seconds left in OT, once again a three could tie it. Thomas tried again and missed badly again, but this one short and right and fell out. And that was pretty much the ballgame.
Now everyone can go back to discussions about the move. Well, that and Cousins.