In Toronto, Kings basketball was fun again. The team shot a meager 37 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 16 times. But thanks to some fierce defense, clutch shot making, a high intensity level and standout efforts from two key players, Sacramento nabbed a 98-91 victory, restoring some good feelings after two bad losses.
THE BOOGIE MAN – There would be no stopping DeMarcus Cousins (39 MIN, 21 PTS, 6-11 FG, 9-11 FT, 19 REB) on this night. The Toronto Raptors had NO answer for the Kings big man as DMC was an absolute force in the paint. He dominated the boards with a combo of strength and hustle. Since Paul Westphal got the axe, Cousins has been a different man. Against the Raptors, DMC was a professional — he stayed under control offensively, set hard picks, positioned himself well to receive passes and knocked down his midrange jumpers. No play demonstrated Boogie’s night better than a fourth quarter rebound scramble in which Cousins took on three Raptors, leaped, tipped, poked the ball away, dove on the floor and forced a jump ball. Amazing effort tonight for DeMarcus.
ISAIAH’S INSTANT ENERGY – We’ve been waiting for the other Kings rookie guard to assert himself, but on Wednesday, it was Isaiah Thomas (23 MIN, 20 PTS, 6-12 FG, 3-6 3FG, 5-5 FT, 6 AST) who stole the show. What a treat to watch this kid play. Thomas ran the team in stretches, played off the ball at times and all the while he produced. Gorgeous no-look passes. Gutty long balls. Terrific on-ball defense against Jose Calderon. Thomas brought the fire and the passion that this team has lacked all season. You almost forget what it’s like to have a point guard who reads the floor, runs the team and plays all out. Like he said after the game, “I’m 5’8″. I gotta bring something.”
RIDING THE HOT HAND – Keith Smart has been tinkering with his rotation, but it was great to see him ride the Kings fourth quarter lineup basically to the end. It was a group that was playing extremely well together — DMC, Thomas, Tyreke, Donte Greene and Francisco Garcia; not a group you would usually throw out there. Sure, Smart could have carved out more minutes for Jason Thompson (6 MIN), who was coming off a strong outing, or put starter J.J. Hickson (24 MIN, 6 PTS, 9 REB) back on the floor, but why bother? Great to see the coach stick with the horse that brought him there.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Tyreke (29 PTS, 7-22 FG, 14-14 FT, 7 REB, 3 AST, 1 TO, 2 STL) played a lot better than his field goal percentage indicates. Evans was strong on the ball, and whenever the team needed penetration, he was the man for the job. And how ’bout those free throws? … Jimmer (27 MIN, 10 PTS, 3-10 FG) started much more aggressive but still got into trouble when he passed up open shots to dribble. He’ll continue to search for that comfort level … Hickson and Cousins on the boards is an outstanding combo. Cousins is immovable and Hickson isn’t afraid to fly.