No mid-game lulls. No embarrassing, late-game collapse. Just a 48-minute team effort that helped the Sacramento Kings drop a worthy opponent, the Houston Rockets, on Sunday afternoon. The Kings took a step forward as they work to integrate their new acquisitions. Rudy Gay made that transition easier by bringing a steady hand to the offense. And after being outworked on Friday in Phoenix, the Kings maintained their energy level for the entire game. As a result, they cruised to a 106-91 victory.
GAY LEADS THE OFFENSE – Rudy Gay was a bit bashful Friday in Phoenix, feeling his way through his first game with the Kings. Gay (39 MIN, 26 PTS, 10-20 FG, 5-6 FT, 5 REB, 4 AST, 4 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TO) was a lot more assertive against the Rockets, and Sacramento’s new small forward looked more comfortable playing within the team’s offense. For the Kings, Gay instills confidence in the offense. Now there is a guy who can be relied upon to create his own shot and finish inside or outside. There were about three times when Gay overdribbled or took a shot that maybe could have waited. But other than that, he picked the right spots to attack. Gay is such a smooth athlete and a proven, natural scorer. It was also a positive to see him draw defenders and find the open men, which he seems willing to do. Defensively, he has active hands and can initiate the fast break. Gay delivered on Sunday, and the Kings look like a potent offense with him involved.
DEFENSIVE EFFORT INTENSIFIES – To say the Kings played a flawless game defensively would be incorrect. There were definite breakdowns on certain occasions and sometimes Sacramento was simply bailed out by some missed Rockets shots. But it would be difficult to question the defensive effort for the Kings, a team that has disappeared on that end in many games. From point guard to center and throughout the bench, the Kings worked hard. Dwight Howard was contained and the Kings used their fouls wisely on the Rockets center. James Harden did his damage, but the Kings made him battle when he got to the basket. Coach Michael Malone preaches defense, and it was pretty clear that he wasn’t happy after Friday’s loss in Phoenix. The Kings responded with a better effort Sunday.
CHEMISTRY BETWEEN SCORERS – The addition of Gay immediately had people questioning how the offense would adapt and how DeMarcus Cousins would perform. It’s too early to call it a success, but so far, so good. On a night when Gay took a team-high 20 shots, Cousins (32 MIN, 21 PTS, 7-14 FG, 7-7 FT, 10 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 4 TO) never seemed overlooked and was more than willing to make the extra pass if it meant a better look for his teammate. At the point guard spot, Isaiah Thomas (42 MIN, 19 PTS, 7-12 FG, 4-5 FT, 2 REB, 8 AST, 2 STL, 3 TO) went the entire first quarter without taking a shot, a clear sign that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win. He still ended up contributing as a scorer and helped keep his fellow weapons happy. Winning certainly has a way of masking any unhappiness, but the early returns are nothing but positive.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Derrick Williams (24 MIN, 11 PTS, 3-10 FG, 4-6 FT, 6 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK) is a fun player to have. No deep analysis coming. He’s not perfect, but he’s entertaining, he works hard, he has a great attitude and he has the skills offensively to do a lot of things … Travis Outlaw (30 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-7 FG, 7 REB, 1 BLK) played a really strong game off the bench. The Kings used him more as the backup shooting guard, and Travis played good defense, knocked down some shots and provided a great presence on the boards … Another game, another big work load for Isaiah. 42 minutes. Only spelled in the first half by Jimmer Fredette, who scored on a nice dribble drive against the aggressive Aaron Brooks … The Rockets were horrid from the free throw line, making just 22-of-38 from the stripe … With the Rockets undersized up front off the bench, the Kings used Quincy Acy instead of Aaron Gray. In his Kings debut, Acy (13 MIN, 4 PTS, 2-2 FG, 3 REB, 1 BLK) brought a lot of energy. He nearly ripped the rim off with a ferocious dunk. He also showed that he has the athleticism to show out on guards, while also matching up against Dwight Howard on occasion … Ben McLemore (23 MIN, 4 PTS, 1-4 FG, 1 REB, 2 TO) has now scored 4 or fewer points in each of his last four games, making just one field goal in each contest.