Guards Help Kings Slide Past Struggling Bobcats


Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

A team that hasn’t won at home since November against a squad with two road wins…something had to give. Luckily, the visiting Sacramento Kings emerged victorious over the Charlotte Bobcats. This game featured very few spurts of good basketball. At times, it felt like the Kings should have been up by double digits on Charlotte; at others, Sacramento was lucky to be clinging to the lead. But with the game in the balance, the Kings got the one defensive stop they needed, iced it from the line and walked out with a 97-93 win.

ISAIAH IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT — Maybe the most important stretch of the game came in the first three minutes of the second half. For those precious moments, the Kings actually let Isaiah Thomas (30 MIN, 15 PTS, 4-11 FG, 7-8 FT, 7 AST, 5 REB, 2 STL, 0 TO) serve as the unquestioned point guard. No Tyreke takeovers. No DeMarcus dump-downs. Thomas brought the ball up court, executed plays and did a terrific job of finding open teammates. A no-look pass underneath to Jason Thompson, an over-the-top entry to Cousins and an alley oop to DMC gave Thomas three assists in those 180 seconds. Thomas stayed involved for the rest of the game, but not quite as much as those first minutes. Hopefully the Kings saw what can happen when Isaiah gets to fill the true role of point guard.

THORNTON FINDS THE RANGE — A night after an ugly shooting night in Memphis, Marcus Thornton bounced back and provided the lift the Kings needed off the bench in Charlotte. Thornton (27 MIN, 18 PTS, 6-11 FG, 4-7 3FG) did most of his damage from the perimeter, showing the confidence that Kings fans have come to expect from the shooter. Teammates were looking for Thornton — Cousins found him with a sweet backdoor pass in the first half while Thomas set him up beautifully for a corner three in the second half. With a game coming up in his home state, it’s possible Thornton could build on his strong performance Saturday.

SURPRISE FIRST HALF CONTRIBUTOR — When Thomas Robinson was forced to the locker room with a bloody mouth, Keith Smart turned to James Johnson, who had seen just 12 minutes in the previous three games combined. Johnson (19 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-8 FG, 9 REB, 2 BLK) filled the gap admirably. Perhaps motivated by his recent benching or playing more comfortably in the power forward slot, Johnson did a little bit of everything. It seems like Johnson is able to exploit opposing ‘fours’ much more than ‘threes.’ He powered to the basket, kept his outside shooting to a minimum and provided his typical strong defense. Also of note was his great rebounding rate. Robinson should still get most of the minutes as the reserve power forward for development purposes, but credit to Johnson for staying ready and playing within himself Saturday.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS — The Bobcats attempted 38 free throws, while the Kings had 21 shots from the line … Jimmer Fredette was a DNP-CD victim, but Aaron Brooks (18 MIN, 2 PTS, 0-4 FG, 3 AST, 1 TO, 2 REB) was unproductive as the backup point guard … With his dad in attendance, Jason Thompson (32 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-6 FG, 4 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL) shot the ball much better than he has recently. It was the first time he cracked double figures in points in the past six games.