Wow. The roller coaster of emotions continues. Kings fans have been drenched in misery and anger the past two days, and the prevailing thought was that the stench of the Maloofs’ deceit would ruin the Sunday matinee against Portland. But try telling that to Kings fans, who showed up in droves to support their team, like always. And thankfully, the Kings gave them one hell of an effort to get excited about. Sacramento fought through some insane Portland shooting and kept their foot on the accelerator. Ball movement was crisp: 26 assists to just six turnovers. And when Raymond Felton’s 35-foot heave clanked off the backboard, giving the Kings a 104-103 win, the Kings and their fans finally got to celebrate something in an otherwise dreary week, a huge pick-me-up for a depressed fan base.
THE RETURN OF BUCKETS – Big Shot Thornton. Buckets. Mr. Clutch. Call him what you want, but Marcus Thornton (38 MIN, 20 PTS, 9-18 FG, 5 REB) loves crunch time, and it was great to see him come through for the Kings with the game on the line. Marcus, of course, made a living hitting huge fourth-quarter shots last year, and for much of this year, the Kings haven’t really had too many opportunities for Thornton to be a hero. But Keith Smart drew up a terrific play against the Blazers. DeMarcus Cousins set a strong screen, allowing Marcus to curl into an open area about 18 feet out. Isaiah Thomas delivered the ball perfectly, Thornton received, gave a sweet jab/step-back move and buried the game-winner. It was the reason Thornton was worth every cent on his contract this past offseason. When the Kings need a basket, Thornton is the man.
COOL, CALM, COLLECTED COUSINS – One of the more controlled games DeMarcus Cousins (32 MIN, 23 PTS, 11-18 FG, 7 REB) has played this season. Aside from an early offensive foul on an ill-conceived dribble drive, Cousins was efficient, and he proved to be an absolute bull around the basket. Boogie was tenacious, going right at the Blazers interior big men and showing deft touch to finish a variety of moves at the rim. Cousins’ best move came at the biggest moment. With the game tied and 15 seconds left, the Kings turned to Cousins in the low block. DMC slid past Przybilla on the baseline and made an amazingly difficult left-handed lay-in in traffic. That’s the next step for the big man. If he can stay under control as he did against Portland, he suddenly becomes a huge asset in the final minutes. Dumping the ball to Cousins will assuredly become a high priority if he plays within himself.
THE ELEPHANT(S) IN THE ROOM – When word broke that the Maloofs were planning on showing up for the game, many Kings fans thought, “This can’t end well.” And sure enough, the Maloofs were present. At least we think. You see, they never actually showed their faces, instead retreating to a luxury suite instead of their usual courtside seats. Hard to blame them. There’s no way the reception would have been anything but negative, as “Sell the team” chants had apparently already been heard in the arena. There was talk the Maloofs might make their way down to the floor later in the game, but that never happened — their seats were occupied by other patrons. Do the Maloofs dare take the court again this season? There are three home games left. And Kings fans certainly aren’t changing their opinions anytime soon.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Hey Wesley Matthews (8-10 3FG), do us a favor and miss a shot once in a while. Holy cow … Strong game from Chuck Hayes (19 MIN, 2 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST) who was quick to find the open man and fought hard for some tough rebounds. Offense is certainly not his forte, but he may have delivered his best move of the year with a drive, pump fake, jump hook conversion late in the game … Starting to wonder if Tyreke Evans (42 MIN, 20 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST) is being used properly. He was solid but he almost seems like an outsider in this lineup. Personal problem, team problem or both? I think both … Nothing but positive from Isaiah Thomas (39 MIN, 18 PTS, 8 AST, 1 TO). Any doubts about his long-term potential should be long gone … Bench wasn’t counted on much, but everyone (maybe minus Francisco Garcia) contributed in some way.