It wasn't pretty, but the Kings won their second (and final) pre-season game of the year 95-91, with Marcus Thornton coming up big in crunch time once more, hitting the go-ahead basket and sinking the deciding free throws as well. Thornton was the clear MVP of the game for Sacramento, with 21 points (including 4-5 from downtown), 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
The first half of the game, the Kings looked a LOT better than they did Saturday. Defensively, they were rotating well and challenging shots, and on offense, the ball movement was solid. They were still getting killed on the boards though (31-18 in the first half) but buttoned down in the 2nd.
Rebounds were about the only thing that improved in the 2nd half though. Offensively, the ball movement stopped and there were a lot of moments where it was clear the team wasn't in sync. This was particularly noticeable in DeMarcus Cousins' game. Cousins had 9 of the Kings 27 turnovers, and most of them were miscommunicating with teammates. He was also really rusty on offense, although I did like that it seemed the Kings were focusing on using him inside more and he only took one jumper. Evans also contributed to the dilemma with 7 of his own turnovers. Defensively, both Evans and Cousins looked pretty good, with Evans doing a good job on Monta Ellis, and Cousins having a particularly exciting moment with a huge block on Kwame Brown.
All of the new guys to the team stood out in some way or another. Tyler Honeycutt got the start and showed his versatility on defense, but he didn't get many touches on offense. J.J. Hickson also got the start and finally showed why this team likes him. He was excellent around the basket, and particularly effective rolling towards the hoop. Whenever he tries to do something away from the hoop though, something bad usually happens. His defense was also porous, and David Lee absolutely torched the Kings inside and out for his game high 30 points. Jimmer once again looked like a vet, making the right decision more often than not and showcasing his beautiful shooting stroke with two more threes. He probably doesn't get the ball enough. Isaiah Thomas showcased his speed and strength, but does need to realize that he can't attack as much as he wants to anymore thanks to the bigger guys in the NBA. Travis Outlaw is long and active, and hit a couple three balls to boot.
The Kings still need to work on their ball movement, but it does seem to be an improvement from last year's isolation heavy sets. The fast break is particularly worrisome though, as the Kings always seem to be running a 2 or 3 on 1 and the guy with the ball opts to take it at the hoop instead of passing. Most of the time, this results in a miss. 99% of the time, the guys need to pass on these fastbreaks, and it will result in more success.
Thus ends a short pre-season, and the Kings still have a lot of work to do. Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports says the Kings are bringing back Samuel Dalembert which should help our defense a bit, but it will take a while to integrate him back into the team. Expect a lot more sloppiness before it gets better.