Don’t look now, but the Sacramento Kings are actually playing some quality basketball…and against quality opponents. Whether it’s the after effects of DMC’s suspension, a few injuries to clear up the logjam at some positions or just a hot streak, the Kings are getting great efforts from several players. Against the Celtics, the starters ruled the day. A dedication to ball movement coupled with terrific perimeter shooting was exactly what was needed to top the Celtics. A torrid second half gave the Kings a 118-96 victory and sent them into their road trip with a two-game winning streak.
CAREER NIGHT FOR COUSINS – DeMarcus Cousins (31 MIN, 12 PTS, 4-12 FG, 10 REB, 10 AST, 2 TO) posted his first career triple-double, and it’s hard to do that without committing yourself to passing. DMC struggled with his own offense, but rather than force the issue as he did against the Knicks, Cousins deferred to better shooting teammates. The results were incredible. Cousins continually broke down the Boston defense and when he got under the basket, he found open Kings. And on this night, Sacramento couldn’t miss. It was the type of performance you’d love to see more of from Big Cuz.
STARTING ISAIAH – Isaiah Thomas (40 MIN, 27 PTS, 10-15 FG, 3-7 3FG, 4 REB, 5 AST, 2 TO) as the starting point guard seems to be a plan that has staying power. No offense to Aaron Brooks, who missed the game with a sore ankle, but with Brooks out of the picture, Thomas had no competition. It was his job, his minutes, his team to run. And Isaiah rose to the challenge — orchestrating the offense, looking for his own when appropriate, playing gritty defense. If this Thomas showed up to start the season, he never would have lost his job. But he’s here now, and Keith Smart won’t be taking him out of the lineup anytime soon.
LONG RANGE BARRAGE – Time for the simple analysis of the night: When you make shots, the game becomes considerably easier. The Kings started their hot shooting against New York, and thankfully, it continued against Boston. Sacramento stroked 10-of-20 from downtown, as six different players connected from three-point range. As an added bonus, seven of the Kings triples came in the fourth quarter, putting the game well out of reach for the Celtics. Finding just one guy to provide a hot hand has been a chore for the Kings for most of the season. Over the past week, it’s been a collective effort.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Big time credit to the Kings starting forwards, Jason Thompson and John Salmons. JT (32 MIN, 20 PTS, 8-11 FG, 4-8 FT, 6 REB, 1 STL, 2 BLK) was the Kings best offensive player in the first half, finishing strong around the basket with both hands. Salmons (33 MIN, 23 PTS, 9-12 FG, 2-4 3FG, 6 REB, 4 AST) took the torch in the second half, finding his outside stroke and also playing solid defense against Paul Pierce. These vets have been super solid as of late … Chuck Hayes (2 PTS, 6 REB, 2 STL, 1 BLK) only found 16 minutes tonight, but the man was a defensive force. Hayes had to contend with the much taller Kevin Garnett, yet there he was intercepting passes and thwarting drives. Much credit to Hayes for his complete turnaround from last season … Jimmer Fredette (22 MIN, 10 PTS, 4-9 FG, 2-3 3FG, 5 AST, 0 TO) continued his streak of strong play. He spent some time as the lead guard, but clearly is better served off the ball. He got some time with Isaiah Thomas, and again the pair worked very well together … James Johnson (22 MIN, 10 PTS, 3-5 FG, 6 REB, 3 AST, 3 TO, 2 STL, 3 BLK) followed up his heroic performance against the Knicks with another strong game. JJ has really settled into his role, and his defense continues to be his calling card. The one complaint from me continues to be his attempts to be a point guard. Get the ball and find a ball-handler. Know your role … Thomas Robinson was a train wreck. Four turnovers in six minutes. A nice two-block sequence was his best contribution … Marcus Thornton rolled his left ankle while landing after a jump shot and appeared to be in a lot of pain. Keith Smart said afterward that the extent of the injury wasn’t known, but Thornton might be out “a bit.”