Oh Kings, how you tease us. Blown out by the Warriors. Blown out by the Pistons. So of course, the Kings follow that up by destroying the Celtics. Go figure. But nobody is complaining. Sacramento continued to show that it gets up for big games and struggles to stay motivated against fellow bottom feeders. Against Boston, the Kings were a legit squad. Fluid ball movement, big-time performers stepping up and relentless pursuit of the ball on defense and the boards…it all led to an entertaining 120-95 throttling of the Celts, and all is again (momentarily) well in Kings land.
THORNTON GOES HOG WILD – For a team used to being on the receiving end of an opponent’s hot hand, it was great for the Kings to get that performance from Marcus Thornton (45 MIN, 36 PTS, 13-24 FG, 5-10 3FG, 4 REB, 4 AST, 5 STL) against Boston. Thornton was absolutely scorching. So many of his baskets came on catch-and-shoot opportunities where the ball was barely in his hands. But as soon as he let go, you felt like it was money. The Celtics tried to run a zone in stretches and Thornton completely obliterated that idea. When he wasn’t zipping up the court on a fast break, Thornton was parking himself in the open spaces of the Boston defense. Marcus forced Keith Smart to play him nearly all 48 minutes. We often forget that Thornton is just 24 — we’ve seen him have tremendous games, but games like tonight could be coming more frequently as he hones his craft.
JT STILL EVOLVING – Jason Thompson (34 MIN, 21 PTS, 9-11 FG, 15 REB, 4 AST) has been one of the brightest revelations in the Kings season, and tonight he looked like a legitimate star. So relaxed and under control. It’s hard to remember the jittery Thompson who was a basketcase around the hoop of the past few seasons. Now Thompson is polished. Against Boston, there was tremendous court vision to break the zone from the inside out. His high entry passing set up teammates. Offensively, he was efficient, cleaning up garbage around the basket and finishing at the rim. His jumper looked smooth and he showed great confidence in taking it. When he got a matchup he liked, he exploited it. When it didn’t favor him, he pulled back and found teammates. Running the floor, snaring rebounds, playing stout defense. I still think he projects as a third big man in the long term, but his play this season has been a joy to watch.
MOVE BALL, GET BETTER SHOTS – The Celtics are known as one of the better defenses in the NBA, and the Kings went around them like they were cemented to the floor. Sacramento really benefitted from crisp ball movement, as evidenced by all five starters dishing out at least four assists. And it was not just around the perimeter. Isaiah Thomas was the bus driver, ensuring that everything ran smoothly and throwing some jaw-dropping dimes in the process. But JT and DMC showed great chemistry in the paint, feeding the rock to each other inside the Celtics defense. Hopefully this game teaches the Kings a valuable lesson. When you move the ball, everybody benefits.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – DeMarcus Cousins (20 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST, 5 TO) teetered on the edge of losing it a number of times. Picked up a technical for a post-basket shove and seemed to be having a little mini-feud with Kevin Garnett. Too much complaining to the refs but he never totally lost his cool, and that’s a step in the right direction … No Tyreke, Francisco Garcia or JJ Hickson for this one … Travis Outlaw (20 MIN, 11 PTS, 3-6 FG, 4 REB) was the Kings minutes leader off the bench, and all in all, it wasn’t too bad of a performance. Missed some open shots and blew one fast break, but he hustled back on defense and helped on the boards … The Kings dropped a season-high 41 points in the third quarter. Nice to see them come out of halftime with some energy … Tyler Honeycutt (10 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-3 FG, 1 STL, 1 BLK) with some second-quarter minutes. A little passive but didn’t make any big mistakes.