My, how things change in four seconds. The Kings went from stunning, come-from-behind winners to tough luck losers forced to deal with an injury to one of their main cogs. Sacramento showed great heart to fight back against Utah, and despite some poor free throw shooting down the stretch, the Kings were right there at the end. But in a game full of ups and downs, it was the Jazz that scored the last basket, as Al Jefferson tipped in a missed runner with 0.9 seconds left to give Utah a 103-102 victory. The loss snaps the Kings three-game win streak and wraps up their home stand at a respectable 5-4.
JT’S SOUR END – Yet another terrific performance from the Kings power forward that unfortunately ended on a sad note. The team is reporting it is a sprained left ankle for Thompson (19 PTS, 15 REB, 2 STL), and he’s listed as day-to-day. Thompson was untouched on the play, which is always scary and it leads you to think the worst (Achilles?). The injury came on the heels of JT doing it all against the Jazz. Battling with Paul Millsap is no easy task and JT laid it all on the line. The game has finally slowed down for Thompson here in his fourth season. Just praying that the injury doesn’t keep him out long because everything has finally been going well for Thompson, one of the team’s classiest guys and brightest pieces to the future.
TYREKE THE 6TH MAN – Vintage Tyreke Evans (29 MIN, 25 PTS, 11-17 FG, 5 REB, 2 AST, 3 STL, 1 TO) tonight — is that OK to say about a 22-year-old? Evans was the charging bull, and the Jazz were a bunch of helpless matadors. Tyreke got to the cup at will and finished his drives, including several high-degree-of-difficulty scoops and flips. Evans also did his usual great job pestering Jazz ballhandlers. I wouldn’t say Tyreke has adapted to his reserve role, but he’s a helluva guy to bring in when the starters finish their shift. And Keith Smart will obviously continue to play Tyreke at the end of games, regardless of his starting location. Could Evans be the right guy for that bench role? It’s possible because a penetrator like Evans is needed on the bench. The second unit is loaded with shooters (Jimmer, Francisco Garcia, Donte Greene) meaning shifting Marcus Thornton to the bench isn’t ideal. And Isaiah Thomas is going nowhere, much too useful as the Kings floor general. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Smart stick with this formula for a little while.
BIG SHOT THORNTON – Speaking of Thornton (16 PTS, 7-18 FG, 2 REB, 2 AST), it’s always great to see him demonstrate the killer instinct that makes him worth every penny the Kings gave him in the offseason. Thornton couldn’t find the net in game’s early going, starting 1-of-7 from the floor. But who else would you go to with the game on the line? Thornton started by drilling a three-pointer with 27 seconds left to give Sacramento a one-point lead. After a Jazz basket, Thornton flashed his versatility, driving hard into traffic and taking it up strong with the left hand to put the Kings back on top with 4 seconds left. The Jefferson tip-in winner overshadowed the Bayou Bomber’s efforts, but Thornton’s reputation as a big-time clutch performer was only solidified.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – I love what I’m seeing from Jimmer Fredette (8 MIN, 6 PTS, 2-6 FG, 4 REB), even in limited action. He’s shaken the rookie hesitation and he’s playing freely, letting his patented long-range jumpers fly. Keep it up, young fella … What to make of DeMarcus Cousins’ (22 PTS, 9-28 FG, 4-7 FT, 18 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL) night — he never stopped fighting, his shooting line is horrific, but I really didn’t think he had a bad night … 12-for-21 from the line for Sacramento. Yuck … The Jazz blocked 14 shots.