Do you remember the game in New Orleans where the Kings looked like dog meat for three quarters before finally stepping up in the clutch? This was a repeat performance. It was excruciating to watch the first three quarters, as Sacramento made Washington look like an offensive juggernaut. But with a little boost from two tenacious guards, the Kings flipped the script in the final frame. Sacramento turned up the intensity on both ends, got some timely baskets and finally picked up a victory, taking down the Wizards 115-107 as they head into the All-Star break at 11-22.
THOMAS DOES IT AGAIN – Another night, another studly game for Isaiah Thomas (36 MIN, 18 PTS, 9-19 FG, 6 AST). Isaiah was relatively quiet for three quarters, starting the game 1-of-7 from the floor and spending most of his time unsuccessfully trying to stop John Wall. When the game turned to crunch time, Isaiah rose up. The rookie’s best contributions tonight may have just been his ability to organize the floor. The Kings were so sloppy and out of whack in the first half. Thomas, the little floor general, corrected that, and of course he brought the aggressiveness the team needed. Isaiah had no problems exploiting the Wizards lackluster defense, splitting double teams and getting into the lane. His outside shot wasn’t as prolific as it was in Miami, so the kid simply took it to the hole. He showed great ability to finish in a variety of ways around the hoop, avoiding the many shotblockers lurking for Washington. Hopefully the break only serves as rest for Thomas and doesn’t stop this amazing run he is on.
A DIFFERENT THORNTON – Little surprise that Marcus Thornton (36 MIN, 22 PTS, 8-18 FG, 4 REB, 3 AST, 3 STL) was right there with Thomas in securing tonight’s victory down the stretch. It was the way Thornton went about it that was slightly out of the ordinary. Always a hard working player who provides 100% effort, Thornton picked up many of his baskets by crashing the offensive boards — all four of his rebounds were on the offensive end. Clutch putbacks from an unlikely source…the Kings needed every bit of it. Thornton hit two long balls on the night, but he did his damage in the lane. The combo of Thomas and Thornton was terrific — two players who only know one speed and relish the late game situation.
SMART’S ROTATIONS – We’ve learned how Keith Smart runs his rotations by now. Starters play most of the first quarter, rest, then return for the final couple minutes of the half. Same thing goes in the second half, only Smart has shown he will ride the hot hand if the team is succeeding. That was the case tonight. Tyreke Evans (26 MIN, 22 PTS, 8-10 FG, 6 REB, 4 AST) had to exit early in the second half with four fouls. He never got back on the floor, despite an impressive first half where he carried the Kings offense. Evans and DeMarcus Cousins (16 PTS, 6-20 FG, 16 REB) gave way to Francisco Garcia (34 MIN, 12 PTS, 5 REB, 2 STL, 3 BLK) and Chuck Hayes (21 MIN, 6 PTS, 2 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL) as the Kings pulled away from Washington. Smart revealed after the game that it was Cousins who told the coach to keep Hayes in the game, the mark of a true teammate. We’ve seen cases this year where leaving the starters on the bench has been questionable, but against Washington, it was perfectly fine. The Kings final unit exhibited great chemistry — all five players played strong on both ends. And Tyreke and DeMarcus were quick to congratulate their teammates. Whatever it takes to win, you gotta do it.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Pretty cool moment after the game when Thornton walked into Thomas’ postgame interview, rubbed the rookie’s head and exclaimed, “All this Jeremy Lin talk, there he needs to be some Isaiah talk!” Seriously, there needs to be … Jimmer had 8 points in 12 first-half minutes after sitting out the Miami game … Donte Greene, a hometown guy who gave out 50 tickets to friends and family, did not play … Cousins’ rebounding line is a little misleading. Many of his nine offensive boards came on his own misses around the basket. But it’s still indicative of just how hard he works in the paint.