Ahhh, the sweet relief of a hard-fought win. This game, for the most part, was not a thing of beauty. Sacramento really made life easy for the Jazz offensively, giving up 52 free throws and 27 offensive rebounds. But the Kings persevered. Playing without Tyreke Evans and John Salmons, Keith Smart employed some bizarre lineups, but in the end, the Kings big guns all stepped up at various points in the game. When the Jazz’s final tip-in came after the buzzer, the Kings celebrated a 104-103 win in front of some disappointed Utah fans.
OUR MONSTER – In the post game, Marcus Thornton called DeMarcus Cousins (35 MIN, 27 PTS, 11-22 FG, 14 REB, 3 AST, 4 TO, 3 STL, 2 BLK) a monster, on and off the court. You just gotta love DMC… he’s our monster. He does a lot of things that make you shake your head, immature mistakes that can prove to be costly. Against Utah, he committed ridiculously blatant fouls, picked up a T for arguing and really showed very little poise in the offensive post. But you can never question his tenacity and relentless spirit. Cousins went toe-to-toe with Al Jefferson, a stout interior presence, for the third time and that has proven to be a 48-minute battle that doesn’t allow for plays to be taken off. Cousins’ night included a hot start and a cool middle that featured a stitches-inducing gash. And there he was at the end, making some big plays. Anytime he makes a questionable play, just tell yourself…he’s only 21, he’s only 21. When he’s a polished 23-24 year-old, it’ll be hell for the rest of the league.
T-WILL’S THIRD LOOK – There continues to be a lot to like about Terrence Williams (22 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-7 FG, 6 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK), with of course a few areas of concern. Williams ended up seeing a majority of fourth-quarter minutes at small forward with Tyreke on the shelf. Perhaps most important was his work on the boards, where he soared for a couple huge grabs on a night where the Kings were getting demolished on the glass. If you remember, T-Will was a playmaker and not a big-time scorer with Louisville. His court vision has already been evident on a number of plays, including a perfect drop-in lead pass to Jason Thompson against the Jazz. Coach Smart asked Williams to initiate the offense a little, and what I’d like to see Williams do is utilize his athleticism. He seemed to ease up when getting in the paint — take it strong to the rim, fly over the defenders and force them to play you. Still not ready to proclaim his perimeter game a success, but he’s not chucking by any means. Clearly, Williams is worth a look the rest of the year.
THE EFFICIENT BACKCOURT – Marcus Thornton (37 MIN, 26 PTS, 10-20 FG, 3-7 3FG, 6 REB) and Isaiah Thomas (32 MIN, 19 PTS, 6-8 FG, 7-9 FT, 6 AST, 4 REB, 1 TO, 2 STL) had stretches of excellence, and both finished with efficient stat lines that were key in the Kings victory. Thornton was the only Kings player to have it working from the outside. And when that happens, I say let it fly. Thornton hit several big shots and threw in his now typical offensive putbacks. Isaiah showed during the second quarter that he could penetrate at will against Utah. From that stand point, it was a little disappointing that he didn’t keep driving. But overall, it’s hard to complain with a 6:1 AST/TO ratio, 6-for-8 shooting from the floor and getting to the line nine times. Isaiah easily outplayed his point guard counterparts, Devin Harris and Earl Watson.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – It was frustrating to watch Coach Smart keep Chuck Hayes (19 MIN, 4 PTS, 3 REB) on the floor at times when the Kings couldn’t grab a dang rebound. Hayes was overmatched by the Jazz’s big frontline and again posted the worst plus/minus (-11) on the Kings … Travis Outlaw (14 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-5 FG, 2 BLK) got the start. That didn’t work out … Solid stint from Donte Greene (16 MIN, 10 PTS, 4-10 FG, 3 REB). If he could just make a few more open shots from the outside, he could carve out a serious, reoccuring role on the team … Derrick Favors with the nasty 0-for-13 shooting line for Utah.