Nothing like an exciting I-80 rivalry game between the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors…always jam packed with offense, boneheaded miscues and a crazy finish. But the Kings didn’t exactly stick to the script Wednesday. They definitely had the offense, thanks largely to the insanely hot hand of their point guard. But in a reversal from most games between these two teams, Sacramento decided to win it with defense. The Kings neutralized the Warriors high-powered offense, completely shutting down Golden State’s perimeter attack. The result was an impressive, well-earned 105-98 victory in Oakland.
PIZZA GUY DELIVERS – The Kings offense in the early moments Wednesday was totally out of whack — no rhythm and no real plan on how to score on the Warriors. Sacramento could have been in real trouble had Jason Thompson not found the net on a number of jumpers. So in the second half, Isaiah Thomas came up with a simple solution — shoot the ball until you miss. Great strategy. Thomas (35 MIN, 31 PTS, 10-18 FG, 7-12 3FG, 7 AST, 3 REB, 3 TO) was the obvious difference in this one, as the Kings point guard took over the game with an amazing shooting display. Three ball after three ball went down for Thomas; five in all in the third quarter alone. For a team sputtering on offense, it was as clutch as you can get. Thomas was in a zone players dream of. One of those games that makes you think the Kings might have a rising star at point guard.
DEFENDING THE GUARDS – It could be said that Klay Thompson simply had an off-shooting night, missing a variety of open looks. The same cannot be said for Steph Curry — that was the Kings doing. Sacramento pestered the Warriors star into a brutal 5-of-18 shooting night. Thomas and the Kings bigs did a solid job of showing out on Curry in the pick-and-roll, limiting his open looks. And down the stretch, Toney Douglas served as Curry’s personal straitjacket. Douglas, as Kings fans have now witnessed multiple times, gets after it on defense and just refuses to give opposing ball-handlers any wiggle room. Holding Curry and Thompson to 21 points is a massive victory for the Kings defense.
LATE GAME MINDSET – He gets plenty of criticism, so let’s credit Keith Smart for sticking with a solid unit to wrap up the victory. After Douglas turned the ball over twice, it looked like his time was up. But rather than pull Douglas, Smart called out Marcus Thornton and re-inserted Isaiah. Thomas and Douglas played great together, and Douglas didn’t have to handle the rock much. On the frontline, Tyreke Evans slid to three, while Smart stuck with Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Completely justified. All three played balls out — Evans (34 MIN, 12 PTS, 4-12 FG, 5 AST, 3 REB, 1 TO, 1 STL) provided his usual strong defense, Patterson (27 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-8 FG, 9 REB) was an active member on the glass and knocked down some shots, and Hayes (23 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-3 FG, 7 REB, 2 AST) deserves special credit for handling all of the dirty work in the paint against a physical GSW frontcourt. Sitting Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins was not the popular move, but it was the right one, and it paid off with a win.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Cousins…meh. A largely unimpressive game with brief moments of the effort that should be commonplace. You just rarely feel that Cousins (23 MIN, 14 PTS, 7-15 FG, 6 REB, 0 AST, 5 TO, 2 STL) is playing up to his potential … The Kings were lucky their awful free throw shooting didn’t bite them in the behind. 12-of-21. Yuck … Both teams shot an identical 41-for-90 (45.6 percent) from the field … Thornton (28 MIN, 13 PTS, 6-13 FG, 1-7 3FG, 2 REB) was a prime scorer in the first half, scoring eight of his 13 points in the second quarter. Six came on layups, as Thornton did a good job of finding holes inside the Warriors defense.