There’s no doubt the Orlando Magic are a poor basketball team. But no one could fault you if expected a Sacramento Kings letdown after Tuesday’s thrilling double overtime loss in Miami. The Kings delivered exactly the opposite. They took it to the Magic right from the jump, playing pretty basketball and taking advantage of soft Orlando defense. A win was much needed for the Kings, and the fact that Wednesday’s 125-101 victory was a blowout on the road made it that much sweeter.
MOVE THE ROCK – Connecting on your shots obviously makes everything look better, but it’s so much more enjoyable to watch the Kings play when they move the ball like they did in Orlando. No out-of-control dribble drives, no selfish forces from the perimeter. The Kings waited for the holes in the defense to show themselves, worked the ball around and pounced. And the crisp ball movement came from every position — bigs grabbed rebounds, quickly pushed to guards, who initiated the offense. The reward was 31 assists and an awesome 54.8 percent field goal mark.
STEADY SALMONS – John Salmons may be the Kings fourth option on offense, but his impact on the team cannot be argued. He almost serves as a barometer for Sacramento’s success, and right now, Salmons is sizzling hot. This wasn’t much of a game for long, but Salmons (22 MIN, 21 PTS, 7-9 FG, 4-5 3FG, 5 AST) had a lot to do with that, establishing himself yet again as a nearly flawless option from the outside. The Kings guards did a great job of locating Salmons, and John’s confidence is through the roof. He’s now 15-of-20 from three-point range on the Kings four-game road trip, not to mention his terrific nightly effort on defense.
BENCH GETS SOME RUN – When the starters race out to a huge lead, it’s nice when you can turn to the bench and keep right on flying. After last night’s extended game, Sacramento needed to count on its bench, and several players were up to the task. Jimmer Fredette got the early call with Isaiah Thomas in foul trouble, and Jimmer (27 MIN, 13 PTS, 5-9 FG, 3-4 3FG, 4 AST, 2 TO, 2 STL) had the shot working tonight. Patrick Patterson (26 MIN, 13 PTS, 5-8 FG, 7 REB, 2 TO, 1 BLK) played the best game of his brief Kings career, showing a wide range of offensive ability — cutting, passing, outside shooting, scoring in the paint — and even flashing rebounding skills that seem better than his Houston stats indicate. Marcus Thornton (23 MIN, 20 PTS, 6-13 FG, 2-8 3FG, 8 REB, 2 AST, 2 TO) wasn’t quite as hot from the outside as he was in Miami, but he found other ways to score and help the team. And Toney Douglas (12 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-4 FG, 4 AST, 2 REB, 2 STL, 1 TO) got his first look and played well, getting after it on defense and pushing the tempo as the primary ball-handler. The bench’s performance let the Keith Smart give the starters some much-needed rest.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – On a team not known for its smart decision making, James Johnson (20 MIN, 10 PTS, 5-10 FG, 3 REB, 2 AST, 3 TO, 3 STL, 1 BLK) may have the lowest basketball IQ. Nice stat line in garbage time doesn’t outweigh his far-too-frequent attempts at running point, his penchant for turnovers and on Wednesday, his ability to get a technical foul with his team up by 31 … Tyreke Evans (26 MIN, 17 PTS, 7-11 FG, 7 AST, 1 TO, 3 REB, 4 STL) was again a bright spot. Hard to remember the last time Tyreke really got out of control and played selfishly. Against the Magic, his finishing at the rim was much better than it has been in recent games and he did a solid job defending Aaron Afflalo (6 TO) … The Kings starters combined for just one turnover. Even in a shortened stint that’s impressive.