Now that’s basketball! Who was that and what have they done with the Sacramento Kings? The Kings played with a fluidity we haven’t seen this year. The first 18 minutes were arguably the team’s best of the season, as crisp ball movement conjured up memories of past unselfish Kings teams and helped Sacramento race to a 15 point lead. The Spurs fought back, but the Kings didn’t buckle under pressure. After falling behind by six with 3:51, several Kings ignored the roaring crowd to make huge plays, and Sacramento escaped with an 88-86 road victory.
UNSTOPPABLE TYREKE – Tyreke (43 MIN, 23 PTS, 11 REB, 7 AST, 2 TO) was the floor general we yearn for, displaying a sick arsenal of dribble drives, pull up J’s and slick passes. He ran the offense, and the Spurs had no answer. When they pressured Evans on the perimeter, he blew by them and finished strong at the rim. When they sloughed off, Evans made them pay by knocking down jumpers. His biggest shot, the game winner, came with 47 seconds left when Evans dribbled right, noticed his openness and fired away with confidence. Splash down. Throw in Tyreke’s solid defense on Tony Parker and incredible rebounding ability from the guard spot, and it was the most complete game we’ve seen from Evans in some time.
SALMONS GROWS A PAIR – Just like we all said, John Salmons (30 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-7 FG) needs to be on the floor in crunch time. Yeahhhh, not so much. But Salmons stepped up HUGE against the Spurs on Friday. Keith Smart curiously inserted Jimmer for Isaiah Thomas with six minutes left, but Fredette was quiet. So with 3:37 to go, here came John Salmons, who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn to that point. John stepped up and hit back-to-back jumpers with the team down four, tying the score with 1:23 left. You can only hope this sparks the guy in some way. While he’ll never be the player we want him to be, if he could make a few shots to contribute, it would be a huge boost for this squad.
KEITH SMART’S FAMILY – Keith Smart has been preaching family since taking over the job, and it is really translating to the floor. On the court, guys are sharing the ball. Tyreke passes up an open three to set up Marcus Thornton (17 PTS, 7-17 FG) for an open three. Jason Thompson gives up a short jumper to find a wide open Isaiah Thomas in the corner. And on the bench, guys are into the game. Donte Greene (10 MIN, 3 PTS) and Travis Outlaw (DNP-CD) could sit on their hands, but they cheer on the guys on the floor. Smart revealed after the game that Francisco Garcia (10 MIN, 2 PTS) told him to keep Salmons on the floor, rather than re-enter himself. It’s a selfless attitude that is quickly spreading and makes watching the games so much more enjoyable. And when it results in a win, that’s as good as it gets.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – So Isaiah (13 MIN, 0-4 FG) couldn’t find his shot tonight, but how ’bout his other contributions? Took a key charge and stripped Parker on a fast break, two crucial turnovers created … What’s not to like about the Kings power forward position? Jason Thompson + J.J. Hickson = 16 points and 16 rebounds … It’s suddenly becoming old hat to praise DeMarcus (17 PTS, 13 REB, 4 STL) but the big guy is starting to put it together. Relentless effort on the boards, and he has cut down considerably on his boneheaded plays. Integral part of these past two wins by owning the paint.