With what happened hours before tip-off regarding DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings really needed a victory to save team morale. Sacramento got that win, thanks in large part to outstanding play by backcourt starters Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton. The 96-80 win sends the Kings to 2-3 with a tough back-to-back-to-back and the fate of Cousins looming.
TYREKE STEPS UP – That’s what we’re talkin’ about. Tyreke (27 PTS, 9-18 FG, 2-3 3FG, 7-8 FT, 4 REB, 3 AST) served as the floor general tonight. Aggressive, full of energy, knocking down shots. It was exactly what the Kings needed from him. Evans will never be a true point guard, but that doesn’t mean he can’t control the Kings offense. Tyreke just had a bounce in his step that was absent in previous games. The block he had at the end of the night capped a great defensive game from Reke, and we even got to see him crack some smiles on the court, always a good thing. He and Thornton (25 PTS, 5 STL), who apparently had a lengthy chat after the loss to New York, worked well together.
CISCO GETS HIS SHOT – It was great to see Francisco Garcia get minutes and make the most of them. Coach Westphal said Garcia moved into the rotation because Travis Outlaw was bumped to the “4” with Cousins out. Cisco (6 PTS, 2 REB, 1 BLK, 4 PF) ended up playing just nine minutes, but he knocked down two triples and made good use of his fouls, laying the lumber to a couple guys in the paint. Outlaw (1-4 FG) has yet to find his shooting stroke, so it’s good to know Cisco can be counted on if the Kings need him.
HORNETS OWN THE BOARDS – The Kings got roasted on the boards (60-41), particularly on the defensive end. The Hornets grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, mostly tap backs by Emeka Okafor. Luckily, New Orleans shot just 40 percent and missed all 15 of their three-point attempts. Chuck Hayes (6 PTS, 10 REB, 3 AST) battles as hard as anyone, but he just isn’t in top shape right now and loses some rebounds due to his height. The rebound differential could be attributed to Cousins’ absence, but on most nights, the trio of Hayes, JJ Hickson and Jason Thompson should be enough to handle the glass.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Hickson (4 PTS, 9 REB) was a nice addition. He’s full of energy and really attacks any loose ball. When he plays within himself offensively, he’s a real asset to the team … Baby steps from Jimmer (7 PTS, 5 AST, 2 STL) on both ends. Some better pick-and-roll defense and tried a couple times, albeit unsuccessfully, to draw the foul on offense. He showed good court vision as well … Salmons (13 PTS, 5-11 FG, 4 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL) finally avoided foul trouble and it was a plus. No agregious examples of forcing shots or dribbling too much and his always present solid defense.