Kings hope to stop the bleeding vs. Bucks

418764.jpg

Kings hope to stop the bleeding vs. Bucks

March 23, 2011

KINGS (17-52) vs.
MILWAUKEE (28-41)

Coverage begins at 5 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Milwaukee Bucks are relying on a balanced attack as they look to make a surprising push for the playoffs.

The Bucks try to win their third in a row Wednesday night when they host a Sacramento Kings team coming off its most lopsided defeat in two years.

After averaging 76.7 points and 38.9 percent shooting during a three-game skid, Milwaukee (28-41) has totaled 210 points and shot 50.3 percent in timely back-to-back victories. The Bucks, tied with Charlotte for ninth place in the Eastern Conference - two games back of Indiana for the final playoff spot - have made a point of spreading the scoring around in the last two contests.

RELATED: NBA conference standings

Carlos Delfino led the way with 30 points in a 100-95 win over New York on Sunday, while John Salmons scored 22 and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute added 19. Brandon Jennings (14) and Andrew Bogut (13) also chipped in offensively as every Bucks starter scored in double figures for a second consecutive game.

Milwaukee is 5-1 this season when that happens.

"We are sharing the ball," said Delfino, who has totaled 56 points and shot 17 of 26 in his last two games after scoring 18 points on 7 of 23 from the floor in his previous three. "We move the ball and try to play together and when we do it, it's better for everyone."

Milwaukee has been dealing with a thin bench, but that issue might soon be resolved.

Guard Michael Redd plans to Friday in New York after missing the last 14 months following knee surgery, while the Bucks could also get back forwards Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova this week. Those players could add much-needed depth to a bench that scored two points against the Knicks.

While Milwaukee seems to be coming around offensively despite ranking last in the league in points per game (91.5) and field-goal percentage (42.7), the club's biggest strength is still defense.

The Bucks are third in scoring defense at 92.6 points and have held eight of their last nine opponents to 95 or fewer. They had no trouble at the defensive end in Sacramento on Dec. 23, limiting the Kings to 36.5 percent shooting in an 84-79 victory.

Earl Boykins led all scorers with 19 points off the bench for Milwaukee, winner of four of five in this series.

Unlike the Bucks, defense has been a big problem lately for Sacramento, which lost 132-92 to Chicago on Monday.

The Kings (17-52), yielding a league-worst 110.3 points in 11 games this month, allowed the Bulls to shoot an opponent season-high 61.3 percent. It was Sacramento's worst defeat since losing 129-81 to Phoenix on Feb. 2, 2009.

REWIND: Kings can't hang with high-flying Bulls

Lack of defense wasn't the only culprit in the Kings' ninth loss in 11 games. The club turned the ball over 22 times, leading to 36 fast-break points for the Bulls.

Rookie DeMarcus Cousins had a game-high eight turnovers.

"We have to be stronger with the ball," said Kings point guard Beno Udrih, who had 13 points, five assists and three turnovers. "Pass it when you see the man open right away instead of holding it too long."

Amid the sloppy offensive performance, guard Marcus Thornton had another solid game, finishing with a team-high 25 points with only two giveaways. Acquired from New Orleans on Feb. 23, Thornton has averaged 22.6 points in his last 12 games.

Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

With their 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, the Sacramento Kings sit 10 games under .500 at 17-27. In almost any other season, that would mean that they were dead in the water in the Western Conference playoff race. But this it the 2016-17 season where anything is possible at the bottom.

Following Sacramento’s win at the Palace at Auburn Hills, DeMarcus Cousins was asked about the playoff picture.

“It’s my only goal this season,” Cousins told reporters following the game. “My only goal.” 

When pushed on the subject, he gave a more complete answer.

“Oh man, it’s eating me alive - every loss or every time another team wins that’s battling for the eighth spot, it’s eating me alive,” Cousins added. “Our only goal is to be in the playoffs this season.”

The Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with the win over the Pistons and they came into the evening just 2-10 over their previous 12 games. 

Once they get through their current eight game road trip, they spend the entire month of February in the Pacific time zone and play 11 over their next 13 games at Golden 1 Center.  

“The one thing I can give credit to this team about is us staying together and being a positive locker room through the ups and downs,” Cousins said. “I’m still confident and I still believe we’re going to make that push for the playoffs.”

Despite the rough patch, the Kings remain just a game and a half out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings. No one is running away with that last playoff spot, at least not yet.

 

Lawson, bench unit spark Kings' much-needed win over Pistons

Lawson, bench unit spark Kings' much-needed win over Pistons

Everyone must contribute. With Rudy Gay gone for the season, Sacramento needs a team effort each night out if they are going to have a chance of turning things around. Balancing the roster on the fly is never easy, but it’s the hand that the Kings were dealt when their second leading scorer tore his Achilles last week.

Needing a win in the worst way, the Kings walked into the Palace at Auburn Hills and came away with a huge 109-104 victory. Demarcus Cousins put up numbers, but it was the supporting cast that found a way to rise to the occasion and snap the team’s five-game losing streak.

“We’re going to need everybody on this team,” Cousins told reporters following the game. “At some point, everyone on the bench is going to win a game for us. Tonight, it was Ty (Lawson), it was Willie (Cauley-Stein) and it was Malachi (Richardson).”

Lawson was a magician with the ball. He entered the game with the Kings down just one with 3:36 remaining in the first quarter, but the Pistons caught fire around that time and pushed the lead to 11 with 20 seconds remaining in the quarter.

It looked like Sacramento might fall behind big once again, but then Lawson and the bench unit took over.

“Ty Lawson, Malachi Richardson and Willie Cauley-Stein had a great energy when we were down 11 in the first half,” Joerger told reporters. “Obviously, probably the best Willie’s played all year. Same for Malachi. He got some run, he got a little burn in the second half, felt pretty good.”

Powered by Lawson, the offense instantly opened up in the second quarter as the Kings tracked down the Pistons on their home floor. Sacramento outscored Detroit 37-24 in the frame to take a three point lead into the intermission. Lawson posted nine points and handed out four assists in the quarter.

“When our offense gets sticky, he’s able to create shots for guys by getting kickouts and getting in the lane,” Joerger said.

The 5-foot-11 point guard didn’t let up in the second half, finishing the night with 19 points and six assists in 23 minutes of action.  

“Chico just goes and plays, man, that’s Chico,” Cousins said of Lawson. “If there’s anyone with a green light to just go and play, it’s him. We love what he does with this team. He’s a spark off the bench for us. He gets us going when there’s a slump. We love the little guy.”

Lawson has become a catalyst off the bench for coach Jeorger. The 29-year-old speedster signed a one-year deal with the Kings late in the offseason and he’s quickly found his niche with the team.

“You play with Ty, you can’t help by want to run, because he will pitch it to you and that’s the best motivation - everybody wants to score,” said Joerger.

Cousins and Lawson didn’t do it alone. Cauley-Stein had one of his games of the season, finishing the night with 12 points and five rebounds. Darren Collison added 12 points, Garrett Temple chipped in 11 points and veteran Matt Barnes added 10 points and eight rebounds.  

“It’s a big, bounce back win,” Cousins said. “We were kind of heartbroken about the last lost. We felt we did everything needed to pull a win and it just didn’t go that way for us. We kind of showed our character and showed we could overcome some type of adversity with the win tonight.”

The Kings are back at it on Wednesday in Cleveland when they hit game four of their season-long eight-game road trip. They’ll face LeBron James and the championship Cavs for the second time this month.  

“It’s huge, we had a little stretch where we lost like eight of nine games, something like that,” Lawson told CSN’s Kayte Christensen following the game. “Getting a win going into Cleveland, it makes us feel a little bit better. Now we’ve got to go in and get a tough one.”

A tough one indeed. Cleveland sits at 31-13 on the season, but they are coming off back-to-back losses against the Spurs and Pelicans.