We went from three quarters of slow, sloppy, ref-infested basketball to a fourth quarter explosion of excitement…what a turnaround. When you play the Los Angeles Clippers, you can expect a hard-fought, uptempo game, and the Clips know all the tricks when it comes to baiting officials. For 36 minutes, the refs tried to figure out how to call the game; all the while, the Kings held strong, matching Los Angeles on both ends. And at that point in the game when the Kings typically crumble into losers, an unlikely hero stepped up and led Sacramento to one of its better wins of the season, a 116-101 victory over the Clippers.
THE ENERGY OF TONEY DOUGLAS – Absolutely no question who gets MVP in this one: Toney Douglas (26 MIN, 19 PTS, 6-10 FG, 3-5 3FG, 7 AST, 2 REB, 1 STL, 2 TO). When the Kings acquired Douglas a few weeks ago, I thought we were getting an end of the bench guy who could score when given a chance. Little did many know, Douglas is an absolute monster on the defensive end. In the first half, Douglas flashed his tenacious defense, hounding Chris Paul and forcing key turnovers to keep the Kings in striking distance. But in the second half, specifically the fourth quarter, Douglas showed that he’s more than a one-trick pony. Douglas caught fire and ignited the entire Kings team and crowd with his long-range assault. The Kings led by two with 3:43 left. Over the next 1:38, Douglas stroked three triples, the last coming from just inside mid-court to beat the shot clock, putting Sacramento up nine. Douglas did it all on Tuesday and is looking like a legitimate rotation piece now and in the future.
MORE BENCH FIREPOWER – Speaking of long-distance heroics, Marcus Thornton was Douglas’ offensive sidekick off the bench. While Douglas was the second half star, Thornton (30 MIN, 25 PTS, 7-14 FG, 6-10 3FG, 4 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL) was huge in the first half, burying four three-pointers in the second quarter. Playing against Jamal Crawford, a similar player who gets a lot of pub for his strong season, seems to spark Thornton, who loves to match shots with the best of ‘em. Thornton didn’t pack it in at halftime. He also loves the clutch moment, as he knocked down two more triples in the final frame. He and Douglas were the difference; the pair combined for the Kings final 15 points.
COUSINS’ EDGY RETURN – Oh boy, this game had all the makings of a DeMarcus Cousins blowup. The Kings center made his return from injury against the Clippers, a team featuring Cousins’ known rival Blake Griffin. And in a physical game full of whistles, you were just holding your breath as to when Cousins (28 MIN, 17 PTS, 6-10 FG, 11 REB, 2 STL) might lose it. The Clippers tried to get under his skin and did a pretty good job, saddling Cousins with five fouls. But to his credit, Cousins stayed focused long enough to contribute positively to the Kings win. His presence down low was important particularly on the boards. Cousins was emotional, but he kept himself in check when it came to the refs, and his interactions with the Clippers (separate run-ins with Chris Paul, Griffin and Lamar Odom) were relatively tame. Not perfect, but acceptable.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Patrick Patterson was again an offensive force. The man can shoot the basketball. Patterson (26 MIN, 13 PTS, 6-10 FG, 5 REB) had the stroke going in the first half. He was removed right after making a clutch jumper in the fourth; didn’t see why he couldn’t stay on the court and guard Matt Barnes … The Kings employed the “Hack-a-Jordan” strategy successfully. DeAndre Jordan hit 1-of-4 from the line in two fourth quarter trips after intentional fouls … Tyreke Evans wasn’t consistent, but he had a great run in the middle of the game where he couldn’t be stopped. Evans (36 MIN, 17 PTS, 4-13 FG, 9-10 FT, 4 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL) used his strength and athleticism to eat up the Clippers interior defense … The Kings had six players in double-figure scoring and connected on 50.7 percent of their shots.