Oh my, what an explosion! After a terrific game against Boston on Friday, you didn’t know which Kings would show up. A Sunday matinee against a fringe playoff squad Minnesota — could the Kings get up for that? Umm, yes, they sure did. Sacramento’s offense has never looked so good. From beautiful ball movement to showtime dunks, it was 48 minutes of excitement. And aside from a poor defensive first half, the Kings played strong all-around, with the energy from the offense shifting to defense. The Kings pummeled Minnesota 115-99, their second straight laugher.
FREE FLOWING OFFENSE – That Kings ball movement was an absolute thing of beauty. Sacramento perfectly mixed aggressive, smart play with making the extra pass to get the best possible shot on nearly every possession. The Kings got the ball up court in a hurry and looked to be at a totally different speed than the T-Wolves. This uptempo style led to some great transition baskets. And when they had to slow it down, the ball was worked around with complete unselfishness. No play better exemplified this than a gorgeous set in the third quarter: a four-pass, Thornton-Hayes-Donte-Jimmer back to Thornton for three that lit up the hometown crowd. It’s a great thing about this team — everybody roots for everyone else, and on the court, that can translate to a sharing of the basketball that helps everyone succeed.
BACKCOURT SPARK PLUGS – Isaiah Thomas (28 MIN, 18 PTS, 6-10 FG, 4-6 3FG, 2 AST) and Marcus Thornton (39 MIN, 24 PTS, 8-20 FG, 5 REB, 4 AST) took it to the T-Wolves throughout Sunday’s game. Thomas showed no hesitation in looking for his offense, and outside of a heat-check long ball after two conversions, he really did not take any ill-advised shots. More importantly, he was feeling it from the perimeter and any time Luke Ridnour gave him an inch, he seized it. Thornton may not have had the shooting touch he displayed against Boston, but his relentless pressure on the Minnesota defense was instrumental in the Kings win. We know by now that Marcus doesn’t take any plays off. The guy just works and works and won’t be deterred by previous missed shots. Against the T-Wolves, Thornton did a lot of his damage at the rim after getting out in transition. Defensively, his contribution of four steals was not unnoticed. They were key in allowing the Kings to keep pushing the tempo.
TYREKE OUT AGAIN – You know it’s coming. With Tyreke Evans out the last two games, the Kings have played arguably their smoothest offensive games. Now I’m still in Tyreke’s camp, but we saw this happen with Kevin Martin. One guy leaves the lineup and the team wins, so it must be his fault, right? Not really. The obvious key with Evans will be the development of his jump shot. He has no problem joining the Kings in running the floor and attacking the basket. But some of the beauty of the last two games has been having three solid shooters on the floor (John Salmons is shooting 10-for-20 in the past two games as a starter). Working the ball around is useless if you don’t hit shots, and Tyreke has struggled mightily with his jumper. It’s unknown how long Evans will be out but provided it isn’t a prolonged absence, the Kings should be able to integrate Evans into this newfound style of conscious ball movement. And Tyreke will need to show he can find a balance between aggressive and unselfish.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Ho-hum, another Jason Thompson (26 MIN, 13 PTS, 10 REB) double-double. Such a great presence on the floor as the Kings battler, and he’s become somewhat of a glue guy. His intelligence and effort is an incredible asset … Donte Greene’s first-half reverse putback dunk was insane. Easily a top-3 Kings play of the season. Donte (21 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-9 FG, 7 REB) had a really productive game, namely his rebounding as the Kings backup power forward … DeMarcus Cousins (21 MIN, 9 PTS, 2 REB) was quiet, but luckily his contributions were not needed. He had trouble staying with Kevin Love and picked up some cheap fouls, per usual … The Kings seemed to bite on Minnesota pump fakes an incredible amount of times … Jimmer (20 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-11 FG, 4 AST) sure didn’t look timid. Not the best results, but no hesitation on his jumper and I’ll take that over a reluctance to shoot … Chuck Hayes (27 MIN, 12 PTS, 5-7 FG, 8 REB) can be a great garbage man if he makes his layups. He did so tonight.