How badly did the Kings need this win? After weeks of coming up just short, it was Sacramento who finally made the clutch play and finally got the clutch stop. This game was a snooze fest for 45 minutes, as two mediocre teams dealing with key injuries played some sloppy basketball. But when the game hit the final moments, the Kings still had their clutch performers. Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton all made big plays down the stretch, propelling the team to a come-from-behind 99-98 win.
ISAIAH’S LEGEND GROWS – A night after instantly becoming everyone’s favorite player for showing up to the crucial City Council vote, Isaiah Thomas (17 MIN, 12 PTS, 3 AST, 2 STL) further cemented his status as a beloved King. Thomas shot out of the gate early, refinding his offensive stroke that had disappeared for a couple games. In the second half, Keith Smart stuck with size over Thomas, hoping to slow down the Hornets main man Jarrett Jack. Finally, with under two minutes left, Thomas returned and thank goodness for that. With 10 seconds left, the Kings trailing by one and prepared to send the Hornets to the line, Isaiah made an incredible leaping play to breakup a Hornets pass, then showed the wherewithal to find John Salmons under the basket for the winning bucket. A spectacular effort, nothing new from the rook, but it was his first game-winning play and the Kings desperately needed it.
REKE-ING HAVOC – Tyreke Evans (30 MIN, 13 PTS, 6-10 FG, 4 AST, 3 REB) continues to struggle shooting the basketball from the perimeter. Against good defensive teams, this limits his effectiveness. But against the Hornets, all Tyreke needed were his outstanding drives to break down the New Orleans defense. Evans did a solid job of penetrating and stayed under control around the basket. His biggest contribution, however, came on the defensive end and it sealed the victory. His assignment, Trevor Ariza, received the ball with 5 seconds left and the game on the line. As soon as Ariza made the catch, Tyreke was draped all over him; just enough to pester the heck out of him without getting a foul. It almost looked like Evans would keep Ariza from even getting a shot off, but at the last second, Ariza forced up a shot that fell just short. It was primetime defense at the most important time, a skill that Tyreke has really developed over his career.
MISSING BIG CUZ – DeMarcus Cousins sat out with a bout of food poisoning, and it left a gaping hole on the Kings frontline. Gone were the offensive rebounds and easy defensive boards. Chuck Hayes (4 PTS, 5 REB) can fight as hard as he wants but his lack of height can’t match up with 7-footers like Chris Kaman on the glass. The Kings grabbed a paltry 29 rebounds and watched as Kaman dominated on the offensive end. Additionally, the Kings had nobody who could consistently score inside with Cousins on the bench. It turned the Kings into an isolation team and surprisingly, they still shot 50 percent. Thank you, poor Hornets defense.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – We’re starting to see Jimmer (5-10 FG, 11 PTS, 5 AST) make some strides, on the defensive side. He has come such a long way as a defender. It’s ridiculous to think of how bad he was early on. And his offensive IQ means he’ll continue making improvements on that end … Marcus Thornton (25 PTS, 4 REB, 4 STL) was frustrated by a lack of whistles but it only fueled his fire. He struggled for much of the night but hit some big shots when they were needed … Another Hassan Whiteside (7 MIN, 2-2 FG, 4 PTS) outing. Picked up one blocked shot, but it seemed like he was a little hesitant to go get the ball … The Kings forced 20 Hornets turnovers.