If you had to identify the weaknesses of this team, you could make a pretty long list. But nowhere on that list would you find the words "Heart" and "Determination". It was those two qualities combined that spurred the Kings 4th quarter comeback victory tonight over the Indiana Pacers, in which they outscored the Pacers 26 to 8.
It was another dismal shooting performance by Sacramento, as the team shot just 30.1% from the field, and 68.3% from the Free Throw line. The Pacers outscored the Kings in each of the first three quarters, and particularly broke out in the 3rd quarter, scoring 30 points and extending their lead to 14 going into the 4th quarter.
Insert Isaiah Thomas and Francisco Garcia, who didn't play much in the first half, but were the key cogs in the 4th quarter rally. Thomas provided a great boost of energy and tenacity, and both players attacked the basket and got to the line. With the Pacers in foul trouble for much of the 4th quarter, the Kings became the aggressors and ended up shooting 41 free throws, 18 of which belonged to Garcia and Thomas. Garcia finished with a season high 16 points and 5 rebounds while Thomas scored 8. Plus/Minus usually doesn't accurately describe a game, but Isaiah's +17 and Cisco's +19 were definitely earned through their play.
The other key factor for Sacramento was their zone defense, which completely stymied the Pacers. The trick to breaking a zone is being able to hit your outside shots, and that was something Indiana was not able to do, going only 1 of 13 from three. The Kings were much more cohesive when playing in the zone than they normally are on man-to-man, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them use the zone more often throughout the season. Sacramento was also incredible on the offensive boards, grabbing 30 of them. DeMarcus Cousins had an arena record 12 offensive boards and tied his career high in total rebounds with 19, to go along with 13 points.
For the Pacers, it was their starters who carried the scoring load for them, with each starter scoring in double digits. Danny Granger scored a team high 16 (as did Darren Collison) but struggled from the field, shooting just 6-17.
The Kings took the lead in the final two minutes but weren't able to stretch much breathing room thanks to poor shot selection and a couple misses from the free throw line. Fortunately, the defensive effort was huge, and the Kings also managed to corral the defensive rebounds off of the Pacers misses. With the Kings up 90-87 with just 4.7 seconds left, Keith Smart opted to do what so few coaches seemingly choose and foul to send the Pacers to the line instead of give up the 3PA and possible tie. To me, this was the absolute right decision, particularly since the Pacers had no timeouts left. Danny Granger was fouled and made one and tried to deliberately miss the 2nd one in an attempt for an offensive rebound, but he committed a lane violation and it resulted in a turnover. Francisco Garcia hit both of his free throws after he was fouled and that was the ball game.
The Kings managed 17 assists despite shooting just 30.1% and it was because the ball movement was much better. There was one fastbreak possession in the first half where seemingly everybody touched the ball without it hitting the court once, and it resulted in an alley-oop dunk for J.J. Hickson. The Kings were getting open looks, but they just weren't hitting them. They were also missing a bunch of layups to start the game, and had quite a few shots simply roll out of the cylinder.
The Kings also forced Indiana to commit 18 turnovers, 11 of which were Kings' steals. Most of those turnovers (
I'm not sure of the exact number 9 of them) occurred in the pivotal 4th quarter when Indiana couldn't figure out the Kings' zone defense.
Jason Thompson started his first game of the season and continued his solid play, scoring 9 points (on 4-8 shooting) and adding 10 rebounds in 26 minutes. Most of that was in the first half, as Coach Smart played a much smaller lineup for the majority of the 2nd half.
The Kings won despite relatively poor games from their main guard rotation of Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer played just 6 minutes and went 0-4, with a couple of those shots being nowhere close to going in. Marcus scored a game high 17, but shot just 5-17 (including 3-10 from three). Tyreke had just 8 points on 3-14 shooting, along with 6 assists and 7 rebounds. My problem with Tyreke is that he wasn't nearly as aggressive as he should have been. Most of his shots were jumpers, and they all missed badly. He didn't attack the basket nearly as much as he is capable of, and he only got to the line for 3 attempts. Tyreke is supposed to be this team's franchise centerpiece, and we can't afford to have him disappear for most of a night.
Unfortunately for Sacramento, this home stand is very short lived, and they'll have to go back on the road for a grueling three game trip against very tough opponents. They'll need to bring the same kind of energy they displayed in tonight's 4th quarter for 48 minutes if they hope to have even a slight chance of winning any of their upcoming games.