Thornton’s Hot Hand Helps Kings Salvage Roadie In Orlando


Dec 21, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA;Sacramento Kings shooting guard Marcus Thornton (23) reacts after he made a three pointer against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Sacramento Kings defeated the Orlando Magic 105-100. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The final game of the Sacramento Kings four-game road trip seemed destined to wind up just as the first three did. The Kings were sluggish at the onset on the defensive end, and the Orlando Magic capitalized, holding the lead for the entire first half. But Sacramento again brought the offense and kept the deficit at a manageable number. And in the second half, when the Kings found some shooters — even an unlikely hero — the game became theirs for the taking. Sacramento wrapped up its road trip with a 105-100 victory in Orlando.

THE RETURN OF BUCKETS — This game was really up for grabs in the second half with neither team securing a comfortable lead. That was until Marcus Thornton (23 MIN, 15 PTS, 6-10 FG, 3-6 3FG, 3 REB, 1 STL, 2 TO) made his triumphant return to relevancy. With the Kings craving a spark, Thornton supplied it, putting on a shooting display reminiscent of his early days in Sacramento. Isaiah Thomas (43 MIN, 23 PTS, 8-15 FG, 3-7 3FG, 9 AST, 5 REB, 3 STL, 4 TO) continually fed the hot hand, and Thornton delivered, scoring nine straight Kings points on three long-balls to push a 5-point lead to 12 in the fourth quarter. It was exactly the separation the Kings needed to secure victory. Awful production has led to inconsistent minutes for Thornton, but it’s no secret just how valuable he could be to this team if he could find a rhythm offensively.

Dec 21, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Sacramento Kings small forward Rudy Gay (8) drives to the basket as Orlando Magic small forward Tobias Harris (12) defends during the second half at Amway Center. Sacramento Kings defeated the Orlando Magic 105-100. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GAY EMERGES LATE — Rudy Gay stumbled to an 0-for-5 start and was a prime reason for Sacramento’s early deficit. But Gay’s got a scorer’s mentality, and it was only a matter of time before he came alive. Gay (39 MIN, 23 PTS, 8-20 FG, 3-6 3FG, 6 REB, 2 AST, 2 TO, 1 BLK) finished the first half with a flurry, hitting two triples and scoring 10 points in the final 3:29. The stroke carried over to the second half, where Gay dropped 13 points including a number of timely perimeter daggers to keep the Kings offense moving. Gay isn’t without faults — he’s had some cold stretches and is a little loose with the ball when penetrating — but having him on the floor in crunch time is a must, and Gay was a big reason for the Kings victory in Orlando.

KINGS SECOND-HALF STAND — The Magic helped out with some cold shooting, but the Kings revved up the defensive effort in the second half to help grab the win. It started in the backcourt. Isaiah really seemed motivated to show his worth defensively, shadowing Jameer Nelson all over the court. Aaron Afflalo found less success than he had in the first half, and the Kings interior defense erased an Orlando squad that lacks a true go-to guy down low. After cruising to 58 first-half points, the Magic were held to just 42 in the second half.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS — As a team, the Kings connected on 49.4 percent from the field and 52.2 percent (12-of-23) from downtown … Jimmer Fredette (5 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-4 FG, 1 REB) buried two quick jumpers upon being inserted in the second quarter. But after missing from the wing, he passed up two wide open looks, opting to throw terrible passes instead. It’s this lack of confidence that is maddening to see in Jimmer. Don’t pass up open shots, especially after you’ve hit two. Shooting is your forte … Ben McLemore (17 MIN, 9 PTS, 3-3 FG, 2-2 3FG, 2 AST, 1 STL) showed some nice flashes offensively, but his inability to stop Afflalo led to foul trouble and his benching … Jason Thompson scored 11 points for the second consecutive game, and while he’s still having trouble catching simple passes, JT has been finishing well around the basket … Quincy Acy (2 PTS, 4 REB) gave the Kings 13 minutes of high energy on the glass and defensive end. Acy even dropped a midrange jumper, his first display of perimeter offense. He’s now 8-of-11 from the field as a member of the Kings.