No worries if Wednesday night’s game wasn’t high on your Sacramento Kings priority list for the day. After the city spent the day fighting to keep the team, the Kings took the court, welcoming back Francisco Garcia with the Houston Rockets. The two teams, both reliant on perimeter scoring, exchanged punches early on, but soon it was the Rockets who pushed ahead, thanks to the outstanding performance of Chandler Parsons. The Kings made several attempts at a comeback, but none were strong enough to overcome Houston’s ball movement. Sacramento just wasn’t crisp enough in its execution, and the result was a 112-102 victory for the Rockets.
KEITH SMART AT HIS FINEST – Kings coach Keith Smart has some redeeming qualities. Unfortunately, his fatal flaw will be his substitution patterns, and his moves Wednesday were some of his most mind-boggling. Sacramento found themselves down eight points early in the fourth quarter. Thanks to the hot shooting of Marcus Thornton (22 MIN, 21 PTS, 8-13 FG, 3-6 3FG, 2 STL), who scored the Kings first eight points of the quarter, the Kings pulled within three. But while Tyreke Evans, who scored 16 points in the third quarter alone, gathered dust on the bench, Houston gained separation. Sacramento got sloppy with Toney Douglas running the point, yet Evans and Isaiah Thomas (who played poorly but would have been an upgrade) rode the pine. Finally, Thomas returned at the 4:56 mark (Kings down nine) and Evans at the 3:46 mark (Kings down 11). Any time your best players aren’t in by the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter, your rotation has serious flaws. But to add insult to injury, Smart removed Thornton for Evans. Down 11, 3:46 left…Smart leaves in John Salmons (39 MIN, 0 PTS, 0-4 FG, 5 AST), who scored ZERO POINTS ALL GAME, and takes out Thornton, who finished with 21 points in 22 minutes. Where is the logic here? Many times, Smart is tough to understand but you can at least see the thought process. Wednesday night was inexcusable. Awful coaching.
MAKE YOUR LAY-UPS – The coaching was poor, but really, the Kings lost this one themselves. Sacramento dug its own grave in the first half by missing countless attempts at the rim. The team finished at 39.1 percent due in large part to failed shots within five feet. The Kings were able to get inside the Rockets defense, but it was all for naught, as everyone from Isaiah to the big men struggled around the basket. Meanwhile, Houston moved the ball around and got great looks at the basket, which were converted more often than not.
ISAIAH LOSES PG BATTLE – The effort was there, but this just was not Isaiah’s night. Thomas (35 MIN, 12 PTS, 3-16 FG, 1-7 3FG, 5 AST, 2 TO) was severely outplayed by his Rockets counterpart, Jeremy Lin. The outside shot wouldn’t fall early for Thomas, so he instead took to the dribble drive. But his frustration only grew as he was unable to convert at the rim and felt he took a few knocks that should have drawn whistles. The Kings have been so reliant on Thomas’ energy and efficiency since the All-Star break. His struggles were felt team-wide, and it was only magnified by Lin’s strong performance on the other side.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – The Kings had a nice tribute to Francisco Garcia (13 MIN, 3 PTS) on the Jumbotron prior to the game. Players from both teams stopped warming up to take in the video montage, which concluded with a standing ovation from the Sacramento faithful. Very well deserved for a true professional and a great Sacramento King. Nearly every member of the Kings went over to Garcia at some point during the night to catch up … Jason Thompson (32 MIN, 17 PTS, 6-12 FG, 15 REB, 2 BLK) may have had a solid gripe about his late-game playing time as well. Thompson was the most steady Kings player in this one, finding a solid stroke from mid-range and gobbling up rebounds. Made the Rockets pay for leaving him open from 15 feet … Evans’ aforementioned third quarter was an excellent display. Tyreke (29 MIN, 22 PTS, 7-18 FG, 2-5 3FG, 4 REB, 4 STL) really took over the game at a time when the Kings were fighting to stay afloat.