It was a night that was about more than just the game on the floor. Another chapter in the Sacramento Kings near-relocation saga was written, as fans poured into Sleep Train Arena to celebrate the return of their Kings for the season opener. The energy was palpable all night, and thankfully for the sellout crowd, the positive result was the cherry on top of an amazing night. At many times, the product on the floor didn’t match the intensity of the fans. But when it mattered, Sacramento came through. Against a game Denver Nuggets squad, the Kings eeked out a 90-88 win on Jason Thompson’s emphatic last-minute putback dunk.COUSINS GOES BEASTING – The Kings are back in Sacramento, and DeMarcus Cousins (39 MIN, 30 PTS, 13-26 FG, 14 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK, 4 TO) is the unquestioned face of the franchise. What better way for Cousins to kick off his fresh start than with a truly dominating performance against Denver. Cousins was everything the Kings needed. He brought the intensity that the crowd craved, yet he stayed emotionally stable. Cousins bullied his way past the Nuggets weaker frontline and really stepped up in the third quarter when the Kings needed him most. Sacramento ran its offense through the big man down the stretch, and aside from a couple miscues, Cousins made the most of the opportunity. He was the Kings work horse and most dependable player Wednesday.
DUAL FLOOR GENERALS – We got a peak at how Coach Michael Malone plans to use his point guards, and it worked beautifully against the Nuggets. Greivis Vasquez (36 MIN, 17 PTS, 6-9 FG, 4 AST, 2 REB, 2 TO) got the start and served as the Kings engine in the first half. Vasquez scored eight points in the first five minutes, feeding off the energy of the electric crowd. As anticipated, Isaiah Thomas (29 MIN, 16 PTS, 5-9 FG, 3-4 3FG, 5 AST, 4 REB, 2 TO) was a spark off the bench. When the Kings fell flat late, it was Thomas who drilled two massive triples to retake the lead. And as many hoped, Vasquez and Thomas played significant minutes together, including the entire fourth quarter. Against the Nuggets small backcourt, the Kings duo was never outmatched defensively, and Vasquez and Thomas showed solid chemistry with the ball. Malone threw a third guard into mix also — maybe to match Denver, maybe to avoid playing a struggling small forward. It was a good look for Sacramento that we’ll hopefully see plenty more of.
FIND A SHOOTER – In all honesty, the Kings probably shouldn’t have had as tough a time as they did with the Nuggets. Unfortunately, missed open looks were all too common for Sacramento, and they were coming from the team’s supposed best perimeter players. Patrick Patterson, John Salmons, Marcus Thornton and Ben McLemore combined to shoot 6-for-28 (21.4 percent). McLemore can be explained by rookie jitters, but one of the other three has got to find a stroke to take pressure off of Cousins down low.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – The entire night and scene at the arena was produced magnificently by Kings management. A great show made better by Sacramento’s amazing fans. Big to get a win to reward the effort … Thompson and Patterson were in foul trouble all night and were largely ineffective. Patterson’s saving grace was his hustle on the boards; Thompson game-winning dunk with 41 seconds left salvaged his night … McLemore (17 MIN, 4 PTS, 1-7 FG, 1 REB, 1 BLK) was a ball of energy and almost brought the house down with a flying missed dunk just after checking in. He looks comfortable on the floor; the shots will fall soon … Jimmer Fredette, Luc Mbah a Moute and Hamady Ndiaye were active but didn’t play, while Ray McCallum was inactive.