Riding a four-game losing streak and coming off a complete dud in Denver, the Kings really needed to show fans a 48-minute effort. They did just that in Washington, and it’s so great when those performances are rewarded with victory. A back-and-forth, fast paced battle came right down to the final possession. And on this night, no other King deserved the ball more than Isaiah Thomas. Thomas’ running floater in the lane with one second remaining gave the Kings a 96-94 win, capping a terrific game for Sacramento.
ISAIAH THE HERO – Thomas’ buzzer beater was the cherry on top of a brilliant game for the Kings second-year point guard. Isaiah (32 MIN, 22 PTS, 9-16 FG, 7 AST, 4 REB, 1 TO) was a leader tonight, looking more like the rookie who impressed everyone last year. Thomas commanded the offense in every aspect. He got his own offense inside and outside, forcing the Wizards to respect that side. But Isaiah did a great job of spotting his cutting teammates, specifically in the third quarter when he was a true distributor. Thomas develops this swagger throughout games when he’s succeeding, and it was no wonder he wanted the rock with the game on the line. Perhaps more importantly, the passing of their leader was contagious for the Kings. The ball moved better than it has in weeks, guys never stopped moving and the results speak for themselves.
FINAL FIVE – You never know who Keith Smart will ride, and Monday’s crunch time lineup was again unpredictable. But wins have a way of making coaches look like geniuses, and Smart came up aces in this one. The Kings rode a three-guard lineup — Thomas, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton — and two reserve frontcourt players — Thomas Robinson and Chuck Hayes. No DeMarcus Cousins. It became a strong defensive unit, as Evans contained John Wall, Robinson worked his butt off and Hayes got the biggest stop of the game in the final minute against Nene. Meanwhile, Thornton, who struggled mightily throughout, hit a big three down the stretch and stole the Wizards final inbounds pass. It was a group that worked and you couldn’t fault Smart for running with it, even if it meant Cousins sat the final 14 minutes.
CISCO FILLS VOID – John Salmons has been struggling lately and succumbed to the flu after one quarter of play. Luckily for the Kings, Francisco Garcia was up to the task. Cisco (26 MIN, 17 PTS, 6-10 FG, 4-6 3FG, 3 REB, 3 STL) caught fire in the first half as part of a bench unit that provided a serious lift for the Kings. Garcia scored 15 points in the second quarter, stroking four triples. He also brought it on the defensive end. With Salmons out and Thornton off his game, the Kings needed a perimeter contributor. Credit to Garcia for being ready to go despite sitting out two of the last three games.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Jimmer Fredette (14 MIN, 7 PTS, 2-4 FG, 4 AST, 0 TO, 1 STL) got the call as the backup point guard. Washington tried to pressure his dribbling, but he did a solid job of staying composed and finding teammates. He only had to defend A.J. Price, meaning any defensive weaknesses were masked … Tyreke (36 MIN, 13 PTS, 4-10 FG, 5 REB, 6 AST, 3 TO, 4 STL) had a Doug Christie like game. Nice complementary ball-handler, strong defense, scoring on occasion. Evans did a nice job of pushing the ball on the fast break … Thomas Robinson’s (28 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-10 FG, 3 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK, 1 STL) game is clearly a work in progress, but holy hell, can the guy leap. He’s got some shot blocking instincts that I don’t think were completely known at draft time … Free throw shooting almost burned the Kings. They made just 15-of-25 from the line, including a surprisingly poor 8-of-15 from Evans and Thomas combined.