Much of what the Kings want to do this season depends on DeMarcus Cousins’ dominance.
But Sacramento wants to keep its up-tempo style of play even when he’s not on the floor. The Kings tested that philosophy after Cousins left Saturday’s loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles late in the second quarter because of a sore right Achilles’ tendon.
Cousins is day-to-day after an MRI Sunday showed a strain in the tendon. The Kings host Memphis on Tuesday.
The offense did not fall apart without Cousins, even against a good Clippers team. Two quarters is a small sample size, but the Kings showed they can function without Cousins for stretches.
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Sacramento started Rajon Rondo, Darren Collison, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein and Cousins, who was replaced by Kosta Koufos in the second half. The lineup hadn’t worked together before being forced to adjust without Cousins.
“No, always been with DeMarcus, but guys are ready to step up,” Rondo said. “Kosta came in, and he’s been a starter in this league, and he knows how to play the game. He’s a very intelligent big man. He’s the opposite of DeMarcus (on offense), but he’s still a great vet for us.”
The Kings shot 45.7 percent in the second half and were outscored by only a point. Rondo said the offensive philosophy did not change without Cousins.
“Coach (George Karl) still wants us to push the pace,” Rondo said. “Obviously, DeMarcus is more of a long-range shooter than Kosta, but we still want to push the pace, get into the paint – that’s the No. 1 priority. Love the rim, like the three.”
The Kings rallied after falling behind by 12 points in the second half because they stayed aggressive. The guards worked to get the ball up the court quickly and attack the basket. Rondo and Collison each scored 11 points in the second half.
“We didn’t let our defense dictate our offense and vice versa,” Rondo said. “We still had energy. That group that was in, we still kept pushing regardless if they scored or we got stops."
coring probably won’t be much of a problem, even if Cousins remains out. The Kings scored 109 points on Saturday with Cousins playing only 15 minutes.
More problematic is Sacramento’s defense, which allowed the Clippers to shoot better than 50 percent in both meetings this season.
“I think we did a pretty good job, OK job – we just didn’t get stops defensively,” Rondo said. “It’s not about offense for me. We’ve scored over 100 points the last three games, and it’s a tempo, but we have to find a way to get stops down the stretch when it counts.”
Rondo added that Sacramento must play better in key stretches. He said that was a factor in the Clippers’ success against the Kings.
“They closed the quarters better than us,” Rondo said. “I think that’s where we have to take the next step, closing each quarter and closing the games out better.”