That’s how you close a game. A night after blowing a double-digit, fourth quarter deficit, the Sacramento Kings returned home to host the Jazz. And with a late lead, the Kings were again given the opportunity to finish off a victory. Terrific shooting and timely defense helped Sacramento put away the Jazz and capture a 108-97 win. Friday night’s meltdown in Utah was put aside, as the Kings are finally stringing together some productive basketball.
TYREKE ON THE BALL – Since Aaron Brooks took over the starting point guard position, it seems like Tyreke Evans has found himself on the ball more often. And the results have been great. Evans (37 MINS, 27 PTS, 9-17 FG, 9-9 FT, 5 REB, 5 AST, 2 TO, 2 STL) is clearly playing his best ball of the season, as his comfort level as the primary ball-handler is evident. Against the Jazz, Tyreke exploited his size advantage on Randy Foye. He took the ball to the basket with ferocity, but stayed under control when it came time to finish at the rim. Even more encouraging has been Evans’ willingness to find the open teammate. Brooks (32 MINS, 13 PTS, 5-6 FG, 3-4 3FG, 2 AST, 4 STL) is playing well off the ball and doesn’t shy away from the open shot, meaning this tandem may have staying power.
FLASHES OF T-ROB – With DeMarcus Cousins ejected in the third quarter, the Kings looked to rookie Thomas Robinson to provide a lift. And the energetic power forward really stepped up. Kings fans have been waiting to see Robinson (15 MINS, 9 PTS, 4-4 FG, 4 REB) show the talent that made him a top-5 pick in the draft. The Jazz have a stable of big men, but against all of them, Robinson was able to make his move and get to the rim. And unlike previous games, T-Rob finished with nice touch to convert his attempts. Jason Thompson has definitely earned his minutes as the starting power forward, but Robinson can be a big time contributor even in 15-20 minutes. Always good to see rookies make positive contributions.
COUSINS GETS TOSSED – A lot of the negativity surrounding DeMarcus Cousins (30 MINS, 14 PTS, 6-11 FG, 9 REB, 3 AST, 2 TO) is brought on by DeMarcus himself, with questionable decision making and immature behavior. But tonight, it really felt like the refs had it out for him. Cousins and Enes Kanter were locked in a physical low post battle in the third quarter with Kanter clearly being the aggressor. The Jazz center pounded back on Cousins twice, elbow flailing, and Cousins rightly refused to give an inch. After the whistle blew, Cousins slapped the ball out of Kanter’s hands before he could shoot. Not only did Cousins get tagged with what seemed like an awful foul call, he was also hit with a technical for the ball slap. Both calls seemed dead wrong. What Cousins said to earn the second technical, we’ll never know, but it wouldn’t have gotten to that point if Cousins wasn’t unjustly targeted. Clearly, DMC needs to mature and avoid these situations, but tonight, it’s hard to pin it on him.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – That starting point guard spot belongs to Brooks and he’s earning it. He’s taking the reins when he needs to, letting Tyreke do his thing and playing consistently on both ends. The bigger battle seems to be for the backup minutes, as Jimmer Fredette (6 MIN, 4 PTS, 1 AST, 1 TO) and Isaiah Thomas (7 MIN, 0 PTS, 0-1 FG, 1 AST, 2 TO) again split the role … Jason Thompson (33 MIN, 16 PTS, 6-12 FG, 9 REB, 2 AST) did his offensive damage from the perimeter. He had the jumper working and made the Jazz pay when they left him unguarded near the top of the key … Marcus Thornton (19 MIN, 9 PTS, 3-9 FG, 1-6 3FG, 2-5 FT) didn’t have his offense going, but he could be seen crashing the offensive glass on multiple occasions, trying to contribute in some way … Cousins’ huge dunk on Derrick Favors was filthy. That’s the way all Kings should finish at the rim … Credit again to John Salmons (28 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-8 FG), who hit two key triples to really swing momentum in the Kings favor.