After three disgusting games to start their road trip, the Sacramento Kings had one final opportunity to end the first half on a good note. Taking on an underachieving New York Knicks team in Madison Square Garden should have been motivating for the Kings. But for 12 minutes, it looked like Sacramento would limp into the break playing some of their worst ball of the year. Then a sharpshooting dynamo emerged off the Kings bench. Suddenly, Sacramento had life. Defensive mistakes and Carmelo Anthony’s hot hand pushed the Kings to the brink. But Sacramento made the plays — first in regulation to force OT, and then in the extra frame to bring home the victory. The Kings bounced into the All-Star break with a 106-101 win.
THE KINGS HERO – Jimmer Fredette truly saved the Kings on Wednesday. Sacramento looked like garbage through one quarter and seemed destined for a repeat of previous road disasters. Fredette (27 MIN, 24 PTS, 9-14 FG, 6-8 3FG, 2 AST, 2 STL, 1 TO) lit a fire under his teammates with his terrific play. It was the Jimmer that Kings fans dream of — burying bombs from anywhere on the floor with no hesitation mixed with fancy dribble drives to create for others. Jimmer was the MVP of the first half, but you wondered if he’d step up (or even get the playing time) in the second half. Fredette put those questions to bed soon after returning to the floor. Coach Michael Malone rode a small guard lineup in crunch time with Jimmer joining Isaiah Thomas. Fredette deserved it, earned it and made the most of it. Jimmer dropped in two massive three-pointers in the final three minutes of regulation, pulling the Kings back and helping to force OT. He was the Kings hero.
RUDY’S ROLLER COASTER – Let’s just say that the Rudy Gay (45 MIN, 20 PTS, 9-22 FG, 2-6 3FG, 7 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 4 TO) who made some atrocious decisions throughout Wednesday’s game was the Gay still recovering from his sickness of a week ago. I mean, how about that horrific no-look, over-the-shoulder, diving-to-the-floor flip over the head to nobody with the Kings down one and 2:30 left in the game? Luckily for the Kings, the Gay they’ve come to expect showed up in the most clutch moments. With Sacramento down two, it was Gay who pulled up with confidence and drilled a 16-footer with 20 seconds left. With everybody in the world knowing that Carmelo Anthony would be receiving the Knicks final possession, Gay took on the Knicks star and shut him down. First, he smartly used a foul to give with six seconds left, and then he used suffocating defense to force a last second miss by Carmelo. Gay got things rolling in overtime by nailing a triple on the Kings first possession. Rudy showed up when needed, masking some earlier miscues and helping Sacramento to victory.
KINGS BAND TOGETHER – DeMarcus Cousins (33 MIN, 19 PTS, 7-13 FG, 5-5 FT, 14 REB, 2 AST, 2 TO) was a steady force for the Kings down low for much of the game. So when the big man left with a hip injury with 3:31 left in the game, Sacramento could either rally together or fold up and die. The Kings chose the former. In addition to the aforementioned standouts, Derrick Williams (38 MIN, 14 PTS, 5-8 FG, 4-4 FT, 4 REB, 2 TO) scored eight points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a clutch baseline jumper with 32 seconds left in OT. Also of note, D-Will was asked to guard Tyson Chandler, who had killed Sacramento at the rim on the pick-and-roll. Williams’ athleticism was enough to stay in front of Chandler and keep him away from the hoop. Isaiah Thomas (41 MIN, 20 PTS, 6-17 FG, 7-8 FT, 7 AST, 2 STL, 1 TO) also stepped up, willingly sharing the ball with the hot Fredette while also dropping the final dagger, a jumper from the wing with 7 seconds left. Jason Thompson (31 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-5 FG, 10 REB, 2 TO) lent his body to the cause, coming through in the paint with a big putback and some solid board work. To see the Kings man up and come through for their injured teammate made the win that much sweeter.