Strong Bench Play Helps Kings Hold Off Pistons


Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

The Kings offense wasn’t always smooth and still bogged down on occasion, but making shots has a way of making everything OK. Sacramento shot to an early lead and solid bench production helped them stave off a late Detroit run. The Kings 105-103 victory moved the team to 2-3. Beating a winless Pistons team at a home is nothing to brag about, but wins are wins, and the Kings are at least showing signs of life after a winless road trip.

JIMMER THE WEAPON — We learned this summer that Jimmer Fredette is not a point guard. The Kings let the second year man run the offense for the Kings summer league squad with generally poor results. So kudos to Keith Smart for playing Fredette (15 MIN, 12 PTS, 3-7 FG, 2-3 3FG, 2 AST, 1 STL) off the ball against Detroit. Smart used Jimmer with Aaron Brooks in a small backcourt, and the offense thrived, as both players caught fire. And defensively, Smart recognized that Pistons reserve rookie Kim English couldn’t exploit Fredette on the defensive end. It may have been Fredette’s best game as a pro. He looks more confident, his shot is falling and Smart may have stumbled on a solid strategy running him next to Brooks.

POINT GUARD STILL UNCLEAR — Keith Smart has started the season with an interesting rotation at point guard. It seems like Isaiah Thomas plays the 1st and 3rd quarters, while Brooks gets the 2nd and 4th quarters. Against the Pistons, the combo was strong. Isaiah (21 MIN, 15 PTS, 6-9 FG, 3-4 3FG, 2 AST) came out on fire, but despite his effectiveness, it was Brooks who played nearly all of the 4th quarter. And you couldn’t really question it because again, Brooks (24 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-12 FG, 4 AST, 1 STL) made some big time shots, took solid command of the offense and formed a good pair with Fredette. This could turn into a season-long battle for minutes with the hot hand earning the playing time.

THE ROLE OF THORNTON — Reading Marcus Thornton’s body language, you can tell he has reservations about his new role as sixth man. Thornton (28 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-12 FG, 1 REB) is saying all the right things, but you know he wants to start. But the hesitations about coming off the bench aren’t affecting his performance, especially in crunch time. Thornton, who almost has to beg for touches down the stretch, stepped up against Detroit with a huge runner in the lane and dagger three-pointer in the final two minutes. The Kings need to recognize Thornton’s ability. No matter how many point guards you throw on the floor, getting the ball to Thornton should be a top priority in the fourth quarter.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS — It’s fun to watch DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe go at it. As Matt pointed out in the game preview, the battle between the two talented centers from the 2010 draft class would be a key factor in determining the winner. Monroe may have gotten the best of Cousins with a terrific triple-double performance, but it was Boogie (33 MIN, 21 PTS, 8-17 FG, 11 REB, 2 STL) who came through in the clutch. He made an especially nice play on a no-look pass from Isaiah Thomas to convert the Kings final field goal … Hard to see what set him off, but Thomas Robinson’s elbow to Jonas Jerebko will likely draw a suspension … Jason Thompson (28 MIN, 13 PTS, 5-6 FG, 4 REB, 1 BLK) had his first productive game of the season. It was what you expect from JT: all out hustle, solid finishing and effort on defense … The Kings shot 48.8% from the floor. Hard to remember the last time they shot that well. Also: 7-for-16 from downtown and just 13 turnovers.