Late in the fourth quarter on Friday night, DeMarcus Cousins drew a foul and made the game-winning free throws to defeat the Utah Jazz. Let’s take a look at how Utah chose to defend Sacramento down the stretch, and how Cousins got in position to win the game.
The Kings ran post-ups for Cousins consistently over the final five minutes of the game. However, he did not have much success over that time period. The Jazz double teamed Cousins after he put the ball on the floor, usually sending Earl Watson. Utah stopped all of Cousins’ post-ups with this strategy, forcing missed shots or turnovers each time. The video below shows the four Cousins post-ups (and double teams) before the final possession.
On the final Sacramento possession, they went right back to Cousins in the post, and the Jazz sent Watson yet again. Utah was dead set on sending a double team from the top of the key, and based on how Sacramento set up the play, they knew this. The Kings put three players on the opposite side of the floor with no concern about spacing.
I can’t blame Utah for sticking with their strategy of doubling with Watson, but this would have been a perfect opportunity to double team from the weak side. The two remaining Jazz defenders could have covered all three Kings because of their poor spacing. Also, the player coming to double Cousins would be bigger than the 6-1 Watson and would stand a better chance at defending the shot. Instead, Utah sent Watson to double team, but he missed the ball on his steal attempt and fouled Cousins. A bigger defender could have simply played positional defense instead of reaching for the ball. Video is below.
Considering the success Utah had doubling with Watson prior to the final possession, this analysis could very well be 20/20 hindsight. However, Watson was too small to stop the shot that Cousins was determined to take, and instead was forced to reach for the steal.