Kings Crowned Summer Champs
Sacramento reacts to its first Summer League championship after a 77-68 victory over Houston.
A flurry of multi-colored confetti rained from the sky, flashbulbs popped and the crowd erupted as the buzzer sounded on Championship Monday as the Sacramento Kings emerged victorious.
“This is huge for us,” stated Ray McCallum, who was named the championship game MVP. “It’s been about eight years since Sacramento has had some success and [experienced] winning. I know it’s just Summer League, but this is a big step for us. We have a lot of young talent on this team and it’s something to build on going into training camp.”
Led by their young point guard, the Kings erased an eight-point deficit in the final seven minutes of action to clinch the 2014 NBA Summer League title, 77-68.
En route to the trophy, the City of Trees won six straight games, three of which came against opponents with at least one All-Tournament First Team selection.
Yet on the biggest stage, a humble second-year guard out of Detroit shined brightest.
McCallum finished with a game-high 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting, while collecting nine rebounds, one assist and one block.
“We’ve been putting in a lot of hard work this summer for opportunities like this,” said No. 3. “What I’ve learned about the NBA is, once you get an opportunity, you try to make the most of it. I saw my team was struggling a little bit down the stretch, so I had to make some big plays.”
The former Titans standout scored 28 points in the final three quarters to seal the win, and is now headed home with some hardware.
“My mindset was just to be aggressive,” he said, “whether it’s on the offensive end or the defensive end. Tonight, I just got in a rhythm.”
Critical to its success throughout the 11-day tournament, Sacramento’s bench again made an impact.
With the team trailing by eight early in the first quarter, Jared Cunningham was inserted and quickly notched five straight points. Ra’shad James then capped an 8-0 run to end the first quarter with a three-point play.
The purple and black trailed by just one, 17-16, during the initial break but quickly regained its lead. Rookie Nik Stauskas tied the game at 25-all with a three from the corner before McCallum followed suit with a triple of his own.
Three more buckets from the second-year guard ensured the Kings went into halftime with the advantage, 36-34.
Despite strong defense from the Rockets, McCallum’s hot hand continued well into the third quarter, as he earned Sacramento’s first 10 points of the second half. But Houston’s offense found its groove.
The Rockets used a 13-minute, 24-14 spurt to take a 58-50 lead with seven minutes to play.
The Kings needed an answer.
“I told my teammates, ‘We want to win this,’” said Ben McLemore, “and I was going to help them do it.”
No. 16 was limited to just one bucket through three periods, but he remained patient. With five minutes to go, the Kansas product cut the lead to six as he found space and drained a baseline jumper. A minute later, he drove to the hoop and slammed one home.
“I was being aggressive in the first half, but I just had to slow down a little bit and [regain] control,” he said. “That’s what I was able to do in the fourth quarter.”
Following a three from James, McLemore connected from downtown to pull the Kings within one, 65-64, with 2:53 left in regulation.
“That’s perseverance and being resilient – I think [Ben] showed that last season as well,” stated Kings Head Coach Michael Malone. “He struggled at times, but he maintained his composure, kept working hard and played better.”
Veteran Quincy Acy also wanted in on the fun, as he nearly ripped off the rim on a slam-dunk at the 2:05 mark. His throwdown gave Sacramento a 66-65 lead.
“I try to win every game I step in,” said No. 5. “I didn’t have a good game up until that point, but in the end, I did what it takes to win. I just tried to show leadership with my actions and I think it was contagious with the guys.”
There was still plenty of time left, but Houston couldn’t buy a basket. The Rockets missed six shots in the final three-and-a-half minutes, as the Kings started to pull away.
In all, Sacramento’s defense forced 14 turnovers, jumped in front of six passes and blocked six shots.
“We won this Summer League championship because of our defense,” said Malone afterward, in a soaked “Victory in Vegas” T-shirt. “We were the best here out of 24 teams, and that’s what I believe in.”
McCallum sealed the victory down the stretch, connecting on four free throws and a shot-clock, buzzer-beating three.
“Both teams were grinding it out and laying it on the line,” he added. “It’s a championship game – you have to bring your A-game.”
It was a complete outing, as 11 players saw playing time and seven of those found the net.
“Tremendous effort by all of our players, tremendous effort by the coaching staff – Tyrone [Corbin] and Chris Jent did a great job – Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Chris Gilbert, who put this team together after the draft – all of those guys deserve recognition because they all did a great job,” said Sacramento’s head coach.
With the memorable, seven-game experience now in the review mirror, the Kings will take a short respite before training camp tips off this fall.
“It’s been a long time in Vegas,” admitted Stauskas, who averaged 9.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. “But I was able to make a special bond with these guys, and I feel like we’ve gotten a lot better over these last two weeks.
“It’s a great way to start off my NBA career.”
Victory in Vegas
Get Your 2014 Kings Summer League Championship T-Shirt - Click Here!
All-Access: Championship Celebration:
Player of the Game: Ray McCallum