The Blazers may not be playing the greatest basketball, but the Rose Garden has always been a tough place for the Kings to play. Coming off the high of back-to-back home wins, Sacramento shot out of the gate in Portland with efficient offense. After a brutal second quarter, the Kings bounced back immediately in the third, catching fire from downtown. And it was a pair of unlikely heroes who helped seal the convincing 99-80 win over the Blazers.
SALMONS THE MVP – Kings fans certainly wouldn’t mind seeing that John Salmons (36 MIN, 19 PTS, 6-10 FG, 3-4 3FG, 4-5 FT, 11 AST, 3 REB, 2 STL, 0 TO) take the floor every night. What a monster game for the Sac small forward. Once Salmons knocked down a few shots from the perimeter, his confidence clearly grew and he entered into a zone we haven’t seen. He was intent on exploiting his defender, but never did he force an out of control shot. When the situation called for it, Salmons was a willing passer, as evidenced by his terrific stat line. Throughout his career, Salmons has shown the ability to be a standout offensive performer, but that player has made very few appearances since he returned to Sacramento. Against Portland, Salmons was the difference maker.
FROM 12TH MAN TO STUD – A night after rolling the dice with an unorthodox small lineup, Keith Smart again took a stab in the dark and inserted Travis Outlaw in the second half. And to the surprise of everyone, it was a stroke of genius. Whether he was motivated by playing in Portland again or simply got lucky, Outlaw (17 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-7 FG, 1-1 3FG, 4 REB, 1 STL) was a huge contributor. His crowning one-minute series featured a monster two-hand dunk, a leaping steal, a heady offensive rebound and a clutch baseline jumper. The Kings extended their lead from six to 12 in that minute stretch. Outlaw would go on to make several more shots. There’s no way to expect that consistently from Outlaw, but it’s about time he contributed to a win. You could see he was enjoying himself, and rightfully so…great game.
STARTERS STEP UP – Last night, it was the bench who salvaged the game and pushed the Kings to a win over Orlando. In Portland, the starters woke up and made it so Keith Smart couldn’t really sub them out. In addition to Salmons, Francisco Garcia (31 MIN, 12 PTS, 5-13 FG, 2-5 3FG, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK), starting for the injured Tyreke Evans, also played a complete game on both ends. Aaron Brooks (30 MIN, 14 PTS, 6-10 FG, 2-4 3FG, 3 AST, 4 TO, 2 REB, 2 STL), in between multiple bouts of out-of-control dribbling and wild passing, had his perimeter shot working and played solid defense on Damian Lillard. Jason Thompson (29 MIN, 12 PTS, 4-10 FG, 4-5 FT, 8 REB, 2 STL) provided his typical flirtation with a double-double. And DeMarcus Cousins (34 MIN, 19 PTS, 6-17 FG, 7-8 FT, 12 REB, 2 AST, 0 TO, 1 STL) struggled with his shot but made some key, tough baskets at the rim in the second half. Smart likely would have stuck with the starters for close to the entire second half if needed, but the game became a runaway, and the bench finished it off.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas played together against Orlando, but Smart only played Isaiah against Portland while Jimmer was DNP-CD’d. Thomas (18 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-5 FG, 3 REB, 2 AST, 3 TO) played decently but was outperformed by Brooks … The Kings second unit relinquished a huge lead in the second quarter, and the blame falls almost solely on Marcus Thornton (17 MIN, 6 PTS, 2-9 FG, 2 REB, 4 STL). The reserves were in dire need of offense and that’s Thornton’s job. The guard continues to struggle with his shot. It’ll come around but right now, he’s unreliable … The Kings connected on 9-of-19 from three-point range … Sacramento is now 2-2 on the season without Tyreke Evans.