It’s always a disappointment to lose, especially for the fifth time in a row. But it was hard not to enjoy Tuesday’s night defeat in Miami. The Kings went chest-to-chest with the best team in the NBA and didn’t flinch. There were so many times when Miami started to leak out and it looked like it was curtains for Sacramento, but the Kings never gave in. Their three-guard lineup was outstanding, and it took incredible Miami Heat shooting (55.6 percent) to secure the victory for the home team. The Heat finally pulled away in the fourth quarter and grabbed a 120-108 victory.
THE HUSTLIN’ HUSKY – Simply amazing performance by Isaiah Thomas (24 PTS, 7-14 FG, 5-8 3FG, 5 AST, 3 REB). Just when you think this guy has shown you everything, he steps up and tops his performance from the previous game. We love the kid because he’s a true point guard, but holy cow, did he prove he can score the rock against Miami. Thomas took flight in the third quarter and nobody was going to stop him. Three after three after three. Thomas was an assassin, tying a Sacramento Kings record with five triples in the quarter. The Kings rookie is doing everything right now and with each magnificent outing, his future gets brighter. There will certainly be bumps in the road, but Thomas does so much for the team right now: spreading the floor, running the show, pressuring the ball, hitting the boards. He’s doing everything but win, and you can’t blame him for that.
REKE AND MT, A DYNAMIC DUO – The other two guards in the Kings three-guard set played huge games. Marcus Thornton (23 PTS, 9-16 FG, 4-10 3FG, 3 STL) had the long ball working and so many of them came at critical junctures in the game, with the Kings starting to fall behind. Thornton did much of his damage on the catch-and-shoot, though he had some very strong finishes at the rim on fast breaks. With Tyreke as the de facto small forward, the Kings aren’t losing anything on defense or on the boards. Offensively, Evans (21 PTS, 9-18 FG, 10 AST, 7 REB) continually pushed the tempo for the Kings, looking for lanes and breaking down the defense for his teammates. He threw in some incredible circus shots around the basket and even hit his customary buzzer-beating three-pointer from just inside midcourt. Evans definitely had a couple instances where he was out of control, but for the most part, he was a positive influence on the Kings terrific ball movement. His 10 assists matched the other four starters combined total.
KINGS GO ZONE – How would the Kings matchup with the Heat’s potent offensive threats? Keith Smart elected to use a zone for much of the night. Generally, it was effective — Wade and James rarely got loose in the half court sets. Unfortunately, the zone left shooters open and Sacramento was often slow to close out. Additionally, the Kings allowed Miami to pass the ball from one side of the floor to the other with too much ease. These skip passes set up a ton of open shots for Miami, and on this night, the Heat were not missing. Mario Chalmers, in particular, was deadly, dropping in six from long range. Some good aspects from the Kings zone usage, but definitely some areas to improve upon if they want to employ it against other powerhouses.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – DeMarcus Cousins (9 PTS, 3-13 FG, 7 REB) was frustrated all night long. The game was physical down low and DMC is learning that he’s not always going to get the calls. It’s like Dwight Howard in Orlando. Cousins will have to deal with taking a little more physicality than other players … Jason Thompson (16 PTS, 10 REB) was a beast in the first quarter, serving as a true vulture around the basket. He was the only Kings starter with a positive +/- for the game … Donte Greene had a poor game on his birthday. 1-for-6 from the floor … Francisco Garcia (11 PTS) got some run and connected on three triples, including two in the fourth quarter to maintain the Kings faint pulse … John Salmons sat out with a hip injury. Did ya’ miss him?