On the second night of a back-to-back roadie, you could almost hear the excuses as to why a letdown should be expected. But rather than play down to the level of a clearly inferior opponent, the Sacramento Kings attacked, and they did it from all angles. The scorers and playmakers — namely DeMarcus Cousins, who was a force down low — handled their business. The Kings role players battled down the stretch, keeping the Phoenix Suns at a distance and helping the Kings take a 117-103 victory. Back-to-back road wins in consecutive nights…a rare treat for Sacramento.
DMC’S DOMINANCE – This is what I’m talking about with DeMarcus Cousins…show me this effort every night. Phoenix has been trying to get away with playing small up front for weeks, matching up Markieff Morris and Luis Scola on opposing centers. This shouldn’t work against Cousins, but it’s on him to take advantage. He definitely did that Thursday. Cousins (30 MIN, 34 PTS, 12-16 FG, 9-9 FT, 14 REB, 2 AST, 5 TO) recognized early that the Suns had no answer for him, and he got aggressive. His shot was falling early, and he could always overpower the Suns underneath. The key was he stayed efficient — mostly under control, took what was given and dominated. The attitude was still there — there’s no getting away from it on the court — but nobody cares if you play 100%. Cousins could have challenged for 50 points if his presence was needed down the stretch; he was that good.
PUSHING THE TEMPO – A speedy team powered by offensive guards in Sacramento…a poor defensive team in Phoenix. The Kings needed to push the ball and look to run often, and that’s what they did. Isaiah Thomas was the Kings engine yet again. A night after battling Steph Curry, Thomas (29 MIN, 23 PTS, 6-10 FG, 3-4 3FG, 8 AST, 3 REB, 5 TO) took Kendall Marshall head on. Aside from a few sloppy passes, Thomas orchestrated this one to perfection, recognizing when to push, when to shoot and when to dish. The growth continues. The rest of the team followed his lead, and after a slow start, Tyreke Evans took the torch from Isaiah. Evans (33 MIN, 12 PTS, 5-9 FG, 6 AST, 3 REB, 1 STL, 0 TO) broke down the Suns defense, which lacks any kind of shotblocker, and finished inside and out. Cousins was a great target in the halfcourt, but the Kings rightly ran past the Suns with ease.
RESERVES GET SOME RUN – The Kings let the Suns creep within shouting distance on a couple occasions, but that didn’t prevent Keith Smart from emptying his bench. Patrick Patterson (29 MIN, 10 PTS, 5-10 FG, 10 REB, 2 BLK) saw the most minutes as a reserve, and unsurprisingly, P-Pat brought the energy. Patterson did a great job contesting Phoenix shooters, and he continues to show strong offensive awareness — making the extra pass, cutting, offensive putbacks, finding areas on the perimeter. Chuck Hayes had another strong second half stint as he did in Golden State. And the Kings two-headed reserve point guard, Toney Douglas and Jimmer Fredette, split halfs. Douglas was a defensive theif in the first half while flashing some offense. Jimmer was an efficient producer in the second half, playing next to Evans in the Kings backcourt.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Bill Walton joined the Kings broadcast. His main gems pertained to Chuck Hayes, who he compared to a ballerina. “Where would the Kings be without Chuck Hayes?” … Tyreke Evans continues to impress me with his growth on the offensive end. His jumper was again solid against Phoenix, and he’s cut down significantly on his forced dribble drives … Sacramento limited Kings killer Michael Beasley to 14 points, a mini victory.