There’s just something about the Lakers that brings out the best in the Kings. With frustration mounting, Sacramento needed to come out with energy and, at the very least, compete with Los Angeles. Well, they certainly did that. Propelled by the spectacular efforts from a host of players, the Kings took it to the Lakers for 48 minutes. They overcame every obstacle, stayed united as a team and played with fire — everything Kings fans have been clamoring for since day one. The much-needed 113-97 victory gives Kings fans something to smile about, at least for one night. The question that now must be asked…Can they please bring this intensity to the floor every game?
PAINT DOMINATION – Entering a game against Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, you almost have to concede that you will lose the battle down low. And when you factor in DeMarcus Cousins’ (21 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-9 FG, 8 REB, 3 TO, fouled out) ineffectiveness, it seems like a total lost cause. But don’t tell that to Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes. Talk about two absolute warriors. Thompson (40 MIN, 13 PTS, 6-12 FG, 10 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK) provided his typical 100% effort, mixing it up with the Lakers bigs, finishing around the basket and even orchestrating some offense from the low post. You have to love the guy. And Chuck Hayes…what a difference a season makes. Last year, Chuck couldn’t move and was an offensive liability. Against the Lakers, Hayes (23 MIN, 10 PTS, 4-5 FG, 5 REB, 2 STL) may have been at his best. Giving up massive size to both Laker bigs, Hayes made sure to win the positioning battle. And he’s developing quite a reliable tear-drop shot around the rim. Thompson and Hayes are often unsung heroes, but their contributions were massive Wednesday.
AN ENERGIZED EVANS – Tyreke Evans (29 MIN, 18 PTS, 7-11 FG, 6 AST, 4 REB, 5 TO) was a different man. Maybe it was the Lakers being in town and the challenge of playing against Kobe Bryant. Or maybe it was the fact that he got some jumpers to fall. But Evans had a hop in his step that we haven’t seen much of this season. He was attacking the paint and finishing in the lane. Defensively, he got physical with guards and forwards. And most enjoyable was the swagger. Tyreke enjoyed himself out there, whether it was spinning in the lane for two or swatting away MWP’s fast break layup. The Kings need that Evans.
THORNTON AWAKENS – The man they call “Buckets” made his triumphant return to the Kings against LA. Everytime the Lakers crawled back and you thought, “This is when the Kings blow it,” Marcus Thornton (28 MIN, 23 PTS, 8-13 FG, 3-5 3FG, 4-4 FT, 4 REB) stepped up with a clutch basket. Sacramento often finds itself looking for a source of offense, and when Thornton is in the zone, it makes things so much easier. He had that bulldog mentality on full display, going toe-to-toe with Kobe in an offensive duel. Marcus put the daggers in the Lakers tonight; he was the closer Kings fans have come to expect.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Another big kudos goes to new starters Aaron Brooks (22 MIN, 13 PTS, 5-9 FG, 4 REB, 3 AST, 0 TO) and John Salmons (31 MIN, 13 PTS, 5-12 FG, 3 REB, 2 STL). Both guys provided an offensive lift to start the game. And it’s safe to say that, even though Kobe went off, few players in the NBA play him better defensively than Salmons … Sorry, but the early free throw discrepancy in this game was ridiculous. The Kings finished with a 50-22 points in the paint advantage, and yet early on were down 25-3 in the free throw attempt department. Late fouls helped close to the gap to 39-22 … James Johnson (19 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-5 FG, 5 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK) made some nice energy plays, which we haven’t seen from him since the preseason. But please, dunk the ball when you get to the rim. You’re a big, strong man … Jimmer’s seven seconds of play resulted in a nice assist on an out of bounds play.