Hey now! What a roller coaster for the Sacramento Kings today. Paul Westphal got the boot in the morning, and the Kings came out as flat as ever against Milwaukee tonight. Down 21, Sacramento looked dead in the water. But through it all, the energy level, unlike nearly every other game this season, stayed high. The Kings stormed back, igniting the ARCO* crowd and stealing a 103-100 victory.
SMART’S EARLY RETURNS – Plenty of things to like about Keith Smart’s debut as Kings coach. First of all, the effort was clearly there. Players responded to the change. Whether that lasts or not remains to be seen, but tonight, the players fought hard, even more impressive in the fifth game in six nights. Smart let the Kings play freely tonight, but he wasn’t afraid to make adjustments when he saw them — the early timeout a couple minutes into the game a clear example of this. And last but not least, how about Smart showing emotion at the end of the game? Some of that is great. Who wants a robot roaming the sideline? Players respond to the coach’s fire.
COUSINS IN BEAST MODE – Relentless performance by DeMarcus Cousins (19 PTS, 8-18 FG, 15 REB, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TO). DMC, perhaps buoyed by the ouster of Westphal and his return to the starting lineup, was attacking every ball in the paint. Finishing strong at the basket. Taking his usual fair share of charges. It was the type of game that reminded Kings fans why this guy is so valuable to our future — a true game changer in the paint. The only drawback were the fouls. Cousins fouled out on a bogus call, but he’s got to watch the ticky-tack calls.
TYREKE AS A LEADER – Looking past the occasional instances of overdribbling, Tyreke (26 PTS, 8-18 FG, 9-9 FT, 10 REB, 5 AST, 5 TO, 2 STL was a great catalyst for the team tonight. He looked fresh and full of energy. The key tonight was he finished his drives. Layups were falling and when he was fouled, he was perfect from the line, including four clutch free throws in the final seconds. And Reke continues to show defense is one of his strengths. It was the RekeRoy we saw two years ago. The Kings will continue to excel if he can just improve some decision making — when to kick out and when to attack.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Can’t forget our closer, Marcus Thornton (27 PTS, 10-23 FG, 5 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 4 TO). When the Kings got it to single digits, Thornton was the clutch driving force that evened the game. He needs to have the ball in his hands in crunch time … One downer was the Chuck Hayes injury, a dislocation of the left shoulder. Never know the extent of that type of injury, but I’m guessing we’re looking at at least 3-4 weeks and potentially more if there was any ligament damage. Sad … After wanting to strangle John Salmons (13 PTS, 5-13 FG, 0-5 3FG, 6 REB) for much of the game, you gotta appreciate the defense he gave on Stephen Jackson in the waning seconds. Thank you for finally contributing … Jimmer (23 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-8 FG, 2 REB, 2 AST) getting extended run in the Kings small lineup, even staying in for defense at the end: A good experience for the rook. … The bad: 3-of-27 shooting in the second quarter (!) and 19 turnovers.