A night after taking the comeback trail to victory against the Suns, the Sacramento Kings tried the opposite approach. For seemingly the first time all season, the Kings came out of the halftime break ready to play. Some solid adjustments on the defensive end and great execution offensively helped Sacramento build a 20-point lead. Phoenix made a game of it late, but the Kings held their ground, fending off the Suns to take the back end of the home-and-home, 113-106.
THIRD QUARTER SURPRISE – The third quarter has been a problem for the Kings for most the season, as the team often comes out of halftime lacking energy and prone to mistakes. Not Wednesday in Phoenix. Sacramento emerged from the break with a new gameplan and more focus. The biggest change that needed to happen was moving Luc Mbah a Moute onto Gerald Green, who torched the Kings in the first half. With Green rendered ineffective, Phoenix lost their primary scorer. Offensively, the Kings executed perhaps the best they have all season. Everyone stepped up to the plate — Jason Thompson (20 MIN, 10 PTS, 5-6 FG, 3 REB) crushed the Suns with the pick-and-pop, and John Salmons, Jimmer Fredette and Travis Outlaw (combined 20 PTS, 5-6 3FG) came in and provided some outside shooting. The ball moved beautifully, and on this night, the shots dropped for the Kings.
THE KINGS QUARTERBACKS – Sacramento’s point guard tandem of Greivis Vasquez (28 MIN, 13 PTS, 2-9 FG, 9-9 FT, 5 REB, 6 AST, 1 TO) and Isaiah Thomas helped power the team to victory. As has been stated, Vasquez’s impact is so much more evident when his shooters are making shots. While his defense against Goran Dragic left plenty to be desired, offensively he kept the Kings moving. Off the bench, Isaiah (27 MIN, 23 PTS, 8-13 FG, 3 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 2 TO) again provided the spark. The team just kicks into a second gear with Thomas at the helm. He got where he wanted on the court against the Suns, and just like Tuesday, he helped turn the tide on the defensive end. The two finished the game together, protecting the ball and the lead in the final minutes.
FIRST GLIMPSE AT THE PRINCE – Mbah a Moute (28 MIN, 11 PTS, 4-5 FG, 3-3 FT, 2 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK) has played several games for the Kings, but this was the first time Kings fans got to see just how he can impact a game. Mbah a Moute got his third start and for the entire first half, the Kings wasted his defensive talent on P.J. Tucker, a competent but unspectacular offensive player. After switching to Green, Mbah a Moute let his talent show. You hardly even heard Green’s name mentioned in the second half. On the offensive end, Mbah a Moute is far from spectacular. But he’s smart and can finish relatively well around the basket, as he showed in Phoenix. Those contributions on a nightly basis would make him a fine small forward for the Kings.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – It was Jimmer Fredette again over Marcus Thornton, and Jimmer (17 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-6 FG, 2-2 3FG, 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL) played much better than he did Tuesday. He shot when he was open and even made a strong defensive play, intercepting a pass and coasting for a layup. Lots to read into the Fredette/Thornton battle. Trade coming? … DeMarcus Cousins (27 MIN, 19 PTS, 4-14 FG, 11-15 FT, 12 REB, 2 AST, 2 TO) battled through his sore shoulder. Luckily, he got some help and didn’t have to put the entire offense on his back. But it was still a solid showing for Cousins whose attitude through five fouls was perhaps most impressive … The Suns scored 12 points in the third quarter and 44 in the fourth.