Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on April 27, 2012
The Sacramento Kings defeated their Pacific Division rival the Los Angeles Lakers 113-96 at Power Balance Pavilion Thursday night in the final game of the season.
With the win, the Kings finished 22-44 for the season. The Kings were 16-17 at home and only 6-27 on the road, a number they will have to increase if they want to succeed in the NBA.
Prior to the start of the game, Kings star DeMarcus Cousins came to center court and thanked the fans for being a great sixth man all year long, which brought a loud applause from the 16,281 in attendance.
Though the Lakers sat all of their starters in anticipation for the beginning of the postseason on Saturday, the Kings began the game strong and gained the lead early and never looked back.
“I thought they played well,” Kings coach Keith Smart said after the game. “They came out and put on a nice show for our fans, and it’s a good way to close out on our season and transition into our next season, the summer workouts.”
Cousins led all scorers in the first quarter with nine points, also hauling in nine rebounds as the Kings took a 35-24 lead after one quarter. Cousins’ nine rebounds in the first tied the Kings season high for rebounds in a quarter.
Though the game was meaningless in terms of standings, both Lakers fans and Kings fans cheered as they watched their teams perform. No play drew a louder reaction than the monster dunk provided by Terrence Williams late in the first half.
The Kings big guys in the middle proved to be too much for the Lakers’ interior defense as they continuously ripped them apart. Jason Thompson finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Cousins finished with 23 points and grabbed every loose ball in sight, resulting in 19 rebounds. Overall, the Kings scored 66 points in the paint.
The Kings were able to build their lead to as many as 24 points, which proved too much for the depleted Lakers squad, with the Kings coasting in the second half to the 113-96 victory.
Lakers coach Mike Brown decided to leave his starters on the bench in order to give them some rest before their postseason opener against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. Kobe Bryant needed 38 points to win the scoring title instead of Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant, but he instead watched from the bench all game.
While the Lakers look ahead to their series with the Nuggets, the young Kings team looks ahead to an offseason to learn and become better.
“It’s all about this offseason now and working as hard as we can to get back and be better next year,” guard Jimmer Fredette said.
Rookie Isaiah Thomas believes that Smart is the right guy to turn the team into a better cohesive unit on the floor. Smart took over as interim head coach shortly after the beginning of the season, replacing Paul Westphal, before the front office decided to keep Smart around as head coach next year as well.
“I think with this summer and having a full season to really prepare and get us better as a group, I think the sky’s the limit for him,” Thomas said. “He’s a great coach. He’s really in on detail, percentage wise, on offense, defense, he’s going to have us ready. Especially come training camp, you got to be ready and be in shape. I believe in him just like he believes in us.”
Thompson, who is a free agent in this offseason, believes there are upsides to this team, the youngest in the NBA.
“You can definitely see some bright spots,” he said. “Most of our wins were against quality teams. We played to the level of competition.”