I was critical of Keith Smart after the win against Golden State, so it’s only fair that I start by praising the Kings head coach. After Sacramento turned in the first half from hell, Smart found a lineup that produced and stuck with it. And by no surprise, that lineup included the Kings instant energizer, Isaiah Thomas. Thomas, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins completely took over the game in the second half. The other two pieces to the winning lineup, Marcus Thornton and Chuck Hayes, were quiet, but each hit a key basket late to secure the victory. A tremendous show of perseverance by the Kings, who could hit nothing in the first half. With the 100-92 win, Sacramento has now won three straight as they head to Minnesota.
ISAIAH – Wow. The little guy from Washington never ceases to amaze. Thomas (17 PTS, 6 AST, 5 REB, 1 STL) single-handedly got the Kings back in the game. Sacramento was flat, lethargic, lazy, cold as ice…until Thomas checked in. He orchestrated the offense, keeping his dribble alive against physical Hornets defense. Thomas always made the right decision — penetrating, dishing off, firing from the outside. And defensively, he was practically Greivis Vazquez’s siamese twin. It’s been said countless times: Isaiah gives the Kings something they don’t have, a true floor general. Tonight, he was the team’s MVP.
TYREKE – Keith Smart utilized Tyreke Evans perfectly tonight. Throughout the first half and into the second, Tyreke (20 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 4 TO) was forcing the ball way too much, getting stuck in traffic and missing tough shots around the rim. With four fouls, Tyreke sat. When he came back, he was rejuvenated. As soon as he took his first possession straight to the rim with ferocity, you knew New Orleans was in trouble. Evans would not be denied down the stretch. He picked up what Isaiah started and helped carry the team across the finish line.
DEMARCUS – Last but most definitely not least, DeMarcus Cousins (28 PTS, 19 REB, 3 BLK) was an absolute man-child under the basket tonight. In the first half, Boogie was frustrated by a perceived lack of calls and some offensive struggles. He channeled that energy into a positive in the second half. Cousins gobbled up every rebound and hit numerous clutch shots in the fourth quarter. His work ethic is unbelievable. The team really ran very few plays for DeMarcus at the end, but there he was setting big screens and crashing the glass. Such an intimidating presence in the paint, and he’s become a great teammate under Keith Smart.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Thornton (3-12 FG, 12 PTS, 3 AST, 3 REB) is still considerably rusty after his injury absence, but it was good to see him knock down that clutch three late in front of his mom. Mom was sporting the Kings warmup jersey; awesome touch … Kings outscored New Orleans 31-14 in the fourth quarter … Mixed bag for John Salmons (10 PTS, 4-9 FG): some solid shooting but not enough to keep him on the floor in crunch time … Jimmer (9 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-3 FG, 1 AST) got back on the court and played solidly, but Isaiah stole his playing time in the second half.