It took 34 games, but for the first time this season, the Sacramento Kings have won two straight home games. The Kings impressively took down the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday, and the focus became whether the team could continue moving forward and not let the lowly Orlando Magic trip up their momentum. Mission accomplished. Sacramento, clearly more talented than the visiting Magic, took care of business Friday, coasting to a 103-83 victory to move to 12-22 on the year.
ISAIAH’S STRUGGLES DON’T SLOW OFFENSE – Isaiah Thomas (36 MIN, 9 PTS, 2-13 FG, 1-5 3FG, 4 REB, 7 AST, 4 TO, 2 STL) is certainly entitled to a poor game here and there, and the Kings point guard just couldn’t get it going against Orlando. But in a surprise of sorts, the Kings offense didn’t crumble, instead relying on other favorable matchups to get the job done. With center Nik Vucevic out, the Magic ran a smaller lineup at Sacramento. Glen Davis did a solid job of keeping DeMarcus Cousins (39 MIN, 24 PTS, 9-16 FG, 6-6 FT, 14 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL, 1 BLK, 3 TO) outside the paint, but the Kings big man simply let it rain midrange jumpers. Jason Thompson (25 MIN, 14 PTS, 7-9 FG, 7 REB, 2 STL) was an interior benefactor, scoring early and frequently against the smaller Tobias Harris. Rudy Gay (36 MIN, 22 PTS, 8-13 FG, 6-6 FT, 10 REB, 5 AST, 1 BLK, 3 TO) was again outstanding as a part-time lethal scorer, part-time distributor, and the selfless play rubbed off on everyone. The Kings got out and ran, shared the ball and got baskets when they needed. The crisp offense more than made up for the struggles of Isaiah.
BIG LINEUP SEES RESULTS – Shooting guard has been a problem position offensively for the Kings all season, and Friday was no different. Starter Marcus Thornton (18 MIN, 1 PT, 0-4 FG, 3 REB) was dreadful again, missing three wide open looks from deep. Rookie Ben McLemore (18 MIN, 0 PTS, 0-4 FG, 2 REB) was equally unimpressive, going scoreless off the bench. To spark things, Coach Michael Malone again turned to the big lineup we saw against Portland, slotting Gay at shooting guard and bringing Derrick Williams (32 MIN, 14 PTS, 7-11 FG, 6 REB) in to play small forward. Williams’ terrific play made this lineup work — his constant movement, hard work on the glass and aggressive dribble drives helped him fit in perfectly with the four starters. Gay showed no inadequacies guarding opposing two-guards on Orlando, and the upside of him overpowering smaller defenders on offense was a needed plus. This is a lineup that should see more time given the poor play of the true shooting guards on the roster. Williams has really found a niche in the Kings two wins this week.
CREDITING JIMMER FREDETTE – Two weeks ago, the thought of going all season with Jimmer Fredette as backup point guard was a scary one. But in the past two games, Jimmer (13 MIN, 11 PTS, 4-6 FG, 2-2 3FG, 3 AST, 1 TO) has shown some serious growth. He’ll never be a true point guard and most defensive matchups will be problematic, but that doesn’t take away from Fredette’s play against Orlando. With Jimmer running the point, the Kings offense didn’t take a hit; instead, it kept running smoothly. Confident and sure, Jimmer dropped eight straight Kings points in the second quarter, pushing Sacramento into the lead after a poor finish to the first. Later, Fredette shared some ball-handling duties with Gay, but nonetheless, he showed a better grasp of the offense and even made a couple solid plays defensively. The Andre Miller rumor has waned a bit, and maybe that’s a good thing — Jimmer is finally giving the team some quality minutes off the bench.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Not lost in the shuffle is the fact that the Kings held Orlando, the 5th best shooting team in the NBA, to just 33.3 percent from the field for the game. Again, that’s not all defense, but good effort and crisp rotations can’t be overlooked … Winning big has its benefits, especially in team morale. Always good to see the guys having fun on the bench. Cousins and Gay were among the many whooping it up on the sideline … Quincy Acy (14 MIN, 4 PTS, 2-2 FG, 6 REB, 1 BLK) was a quiet stud, ripping six boards in the first half and flashing an offensive game that puts him above the Michael “The Animal” Smith comparisons … Good to see Ray McCallum knock down a jumper in garbage time … The Kings made 18-of-19 from the free throw line (94.7 percent).