Now trending in Sacramento: #Playoffs
No, the Sacramento Kings haven't ended their decade long playoff drought, but with Wednesday's night 94-93 road win over the Utah Jazz, they have moved into a virtual three-way tie with the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets in the chase for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
Down 20 in the second half, it wasn't DeMarcus Cousins' broad shoulders that carried the Kings to victory for one of the few times this season. Instead, it was the smallest guy on the floor.
Veteran point guard Ty Lawson has had his struggles this season, but without the 5-foot-11 fire plug, the Kings would be on their way to Minnesota licking their wounds. Instead, they head into Friday night's game against the Timberwolves riding a modest two-game winning streak and looking for more.
"I thought Ty Lawson was just fantastic," Dave Joerger told media members following the big win for Sacramento. "He's been playing well, he gets a lot of guys shots."
Lawson ran into the heart of Utah's defense, scoring at the rim or stepping back for short jumpers in the key. The eight-year NBA veteran scored 14 of his season-high 19 points after the intermission as the Kings shocked the Jazz on their home floor.
"We're just trying to attack, get in the paint and find each other for open shots," Lawson told CSN's Kayte Christensen after the game. "When we move the ball like that, it's hard for teams to stop us - regardless of who's on the court."
It was Lawson, Cousins and the second unit that led the Kings back. Garrett Temple continues to anchor the Kings' perimeter defense, but his 3-pointer at the 7:10 mark of the fourth drew the Kings back to within one.
"Our bench was tremendous, they won this game for us tonight," Cousins said. "It wasn't one of our best wins, but it's a win."
Arron Afflalo has been the forgotten man in Sacramento, but he showed up big for coach Joerger's group in the second half. He finished with a modest eight points in 27 minutes, but he chipped in three assists and four rebounds while playing physical defense on Gordon Hayward for stretches.
Anthony Tolliver scored six points in 30 minutes, but he went into the post and battled amongst the trees. The veteran forward came away with seven rebounds and the highest plus/minus for the Kings at plus-16.
"Without our bench tonight, we probably would have been smacked by 30," Cousins added.
The Kings All-Star big still managed to lead the Kings in scoring, finishing the night with 21 points and eight rebounds. But he struggled from the field, shooting just 5-of-18 against up and coming big man Rudy Gobert. Cousins didn't take an official shot in the fourth quarter, but he hit 8-of-10 from the line to help seal the win for Sacramento.
Following the game, the Kings flew out to Minnesota where they face a young, but very talented Timberwolves team that is struggling to find their way early in the season. Getting a win in Utah was unexpected for Sacramento, who now sits at 12-17 on the season.
"It's huge, coming in here, it's a tough team to play in this arena," Lawson said. "For us to come in here and get a win like this being down 20 and just fighting back - I think we can play with any team in the league. As long as we play hard, I think good things will happen."
Following the game in Minny, Kings take the holiday weekend off before returning home to face the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at Golden 1 Center.