Even in the wins, the Kings don’t like to make things easy. Up by 13 in the third quarter, Sacramento proceded to cough up the lead, playing the one-on-one, sloppy brand of basketball that has plagued the team all year. But with another loss looking like a distinct possibility, one of the unlikeliest of shooters stepped up from long range. Tyreke Evans, who had struggled from the perimeter all game, buried two clutch three-pointers in the game’s final minutes. The triples propelled the Kings to a 107-100 victory over Toronto.
EVANS IN CRUNCH TIME – Tyreke Evans (34 MIN, 23 PTS, 7-16 FG, 2-4 3FG, 7-12 FT, 2 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK, 2 TO) is certainly no stranger to stepping up in crunch time, but he typically does his damage at the rim. Against the Raptors, the Kings ran consecutive plays in which John Salmons curled off a DeMarcus Cousins’ screen and set up Evans from downtown. And to nearly everyone’s surprise, Tyreke delivered on both shots. The shots gave the Kings a six-point lead, and Evans helped preserve the win with some free throws and a key block on Kyle Lowry. With Marcus Thornton struggling, someone needed to emerge. Evans generally isn’t the guy you want shooting from the perimeter with the game on the line, but props to him for stepping up in a crucial moment.
DMC GOES LARGE – DeMarcus Cousins (37 MIN, 25 PTS, 13 REB, 1 AST, 4 TO) saw the most floor time of any Kings player, and the big man made the most of it. It wasn’t always pretty and several times he looked headed for a turnover, but DMC converted a high percentage of shots. Two came down the stretch — a difficult high-arching floater and a smooth dribble drive, banked-in layup. Additionally, Cousins rebounded well and stayed out of foul trouble, which is so often the deciding factor in whether he produces or falters.
RAPTORS ONE-MAN SHOW – Kyle Lowry (34 PTS, 11 AST, 5 REB) was a one-man band for Toronto. The Raptors point guard single-handedly brought the team back from a double-digit deficit in the second half with a combination of long range bombs and strong takes to the basket. If you’ll remember, Lowry was rumored to be a target of the Kings during the offseason. It was never really clear whether the Kings first-round pick (No. 5 overall) or Tyreke Evans was going to be part of the rumored deal, but regardless, Lowry would have been a terrific addition. The Kings sorely lack that floor general who commands an offense, yet can score when needed. Lowry fits the bill…the Raptors gave up a future lottery pick to get him.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Marcus Thornton (17 MIN, 3 PTS, 1-7 FG, 3 REB) was awful in this one. Keith Smart rightly kept him on the bench down the stretch after it was clear he just didn’t have the stroke … Another game, another efficient Jason Thompson (34 MIN, 13 PTS, 6-11 FG, 10 REB) performance. Nice to have that guy you can typically count on for close to a double-double and solid defense … The point guard carousel is becoming a pain in the backside. The problem is, none of the three is playing strong enough ball to seize a bigger role … James Johnson (14 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-5 FG, 8 REB, 2 BLK) played well against his former team. His on-ball defense was strong and he even knocked down some shots.