The Game You Didn’t Watch: Mavericks @ Kings

I think it’s safe to assume that most people were too busy watching Wesley Matthews drive a stake through the heart of the Miami Heat to take heed of the #LeaguePassAlert out of Sacramento.  Don’t worry, folks; we’ve got you covered!

Storyline: The Kings, on a two-game losing streak, came into this home game in the midst of an unusual situation.  Not every day is it reported that an NBA franchise will be sold and relocated.  The hottest story in the association on Wednesday had been the supposed imminence of a deal that would result in the Kings becoming the Seattle Supersonics in 2013/14.  Devastating news for the people of Sacramento, obviously, as the news was presented as though their basketball team had all but up and moved already.  The story of the sale lost a lot of steam on Thursday, however, as it became clear that no deal had been completed.  As of now the future of the Kings remains uncertain.

Despite the drama swirling around the Kings, they didn’t come into this game as the team most in need of a victory.  That’d be the Dallas Mavericks, who last beat a non-Wizards basketball team 12 games ago.  For all intents and purposes, the Mavs are on a 10-game losing streak and haven’t beaten a non-Wizards team on the road since the 8th of December.  Since then, Dirk Nowitzki has questioned the front office, Rick Carlisle has threatened to suspend people, and Mike James has been signed to occupy the musical chair that is the team’s final roster spot.  The Mavericks are a mess, basically.

Meat & Potatoes: Following a back-and-forth first quarter, the Kings took control early with a 13-0 second-quarter run.  Tyreke Evans came in off the bench and scored 7 of his 20 points in succession while Thomas Robinson held it down the defensive end (well, maybe he just blocked a shot… but it was an incredible block).  Thanks to some solid jump shooting from Darren Collison and Dirk Nowitzki the Mavericks did slice the deficit from 13 to 7 by halftime, but in the third quarter the Kings pulled away once again as the Mavs failed to score for the first three and a half minutes.  Sacramento went on to have their best quarter of the game, scoring 29 points as DeMarcus Cousins dominated the paint and Francisco Garcia got hot from the perimeter.  The Kings were playing cohesive basketball; working from the inside out, they recorded six assists on seven field goals and earned 15 free-throw attempts.  Their lead grew as large as 17, but a late flurry of scores from Vince Carter and OJ Mayo did cut it to 10 at the start of the fourth.  While the Kings remained in control, the game no longer appeared to have a foregone conclusion.

Crunch Time: Tyreke Evans started the fourth quarter on a strong note, scoring three consecutive Kings field goals.  However, as he briefly took over the game, Sacramento’s offense became stagnant.  Though he made two of them, I felt as though it was an ominous sign that Evans had taken three unassisted jump shots in four possessions.  Sure enough, nothing would come easy for the Kings from that point forward.  Meanwhile, the Mavericks began to push the ball in transition in an effort to manufacture some easy points.  OJ Mayo became something of a one-man fast break, scoring multiple layups as he beat retreating defenders to the rack.  Finally, with 2:15 to play, the Mavericks took their first lead since the first quarter.  They’d captured all the momentum while the Kings had reverted to their old, bad habits.

Following a pair of difficult interior scores by Vince Carter (as well as a couple of Shawn Marion free throws), Dallas appeared to be the on their way to their first non-Wizards victory since December 18th.  Up five with 58 seconds to go, they had a fragile Kings team on the ropes.  It’d ultimately come down to the Mavs’ ability to make free throws, and being that only five teams are better from the stripe, it seemed like a favorable situation in which for them to be.  However, after a huge John Salmons three, OJ Mayo needed to make a pair to keep it a two-possession game.  He made just one, and the basketball gods did not take kindly to his chokery.

Overtime: It took but 40 seconds of the extra period for the roller coaster ride that is DeMarcus Cousins to begin.  In between consecutive scores, Cousins lazily “defended” a pick-and-roll, allowing Darren Collison to waltz down the lane for a go-ahead layup.  In Cousins’ defense, he had five fouls… but had he bent over and moved his feet a little bit he wouldn’t have been forced to put himself in a potentially-compromising position in order to contest the drive.

As overtime progressed, the roller coaster continued.  With about a minute to go, Cousins scored yet again to make it 109-109.  Having asserted his will in the paint all evening long, DeMarcus had 29 points on just 14 shots.  He’d been a dominant offensive force, but in order to close out a Kings victory he’d need to avoid committing any fouls, as he’d already picked up his fifth.  This, of course, was going to be a big test for the capricious big man.  Understanding his track record, I fully expected him to fail.  It was but a matter of time.

DeMarcus Cousins in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen.  The 29 points, the 9 rebounds, the 4 assists, all negated by a critical lapse in judgement.  One small failure — that was all it took to break the third-year pro.

Keep in mind that this was Cousins’ sixth foul, so he’d have been disqualified had it been ruled a common foul, a flagrant one, or whatever.  Whether or not he deserved to be ejected on the basis of a flagrant two foul is another discussion entirely (for the record, I thought a flagrant one would’ve been sufficient).  The point is that Cousins lost control of his emotions following a failure to score the ball on an important possession.  Unable to realize that a single defensive stop would earn him a shot at redemption, he swung his arm wildly in frustration.  In doing so, he put himself in a compromising position and ultimately lost the game for his team.

The problem with DeMarcus Cousins is that he won’t see it this way.  He’ll plead his case, state that he didn’t intend to hit Carter, and contend that the punishment did not fit the crime.  Thing is, none of that matters.  What DeMarcus Cousins needs to realize is that he brings all of this upon himself by allowing his emotions to get the best of him.  Every time he feels as though something fails to go his way he allows his frustration to compound until he finally reaches his breaking point.  It’s a self-destructive attitude, and it’s that attitude that continues to hold him back.

Final Score & Statistics: The Mavericks ended up taking it 117-112.  Even after Cousins’ flagrant two foul resulted in two shots and the ball for the Mavericks, the Kings did have a shot to tie the game (Darren Collison commits an awful turnover, Vince Carter misses a pair of free throws).  Isaiah Thomas opted to fire a shot very similar to the one he made to bring about overtime, but the well had run dry.  OJ Mayo led the way for the Mavs with 24/10/5 while Carter contributed 23 off the bench.  Both teams finished with 23 fast-break points, but it was Dallas that pushed the tempo down the stretch, allowing them to come back and win the game.

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