We Kings fans have had little cause to celebrate these past few years, this year especially so. Last night's victory against the Warriors was a much needed and most welcome respite.
The game itself was an offensive spectacle. Both teams shot 50% from the field, hit a bunch of three pointers, and just flat out scored. Aside from the Warriors' 24 point first quarter, each team scored 30 or more points in each period. Suffice it to say, defense was not a priority in this battle between NorCal rivals.
The Kings were in control most of the way, getting out to an early double-digit lead, before Golden State would come back to make it a ballgame down the stretch in the second half. Aaron Brooks was especially hot early on, and remained so throughout the game. His 23 points came on 9-12 shooting, and he hit an incredibly big three pointer late in the game to give the Kings a 4 point lead.
Sacramento's other guards deserve praise as well. Marcus Thornton came back with a vengeance, scoring 19 points (8 in the fourth quarter) and hitting five threes. Isaiah Thomas played 18 minutes and had nice stretches as both a scorer and a distributor with 11 points and 3 assists to no turnovers. Thomas got to play with a few different lineups throughout the game, my favorite being a Thomas-Thornton-Salmons-Thompson-Cousins lineup. Without looking it up, I'd wager that's the first time Thomas has played with that group, and it fits his abilities perfectly, giving him a balance of low post finisher and outside shooters.
Lest we forget, Jimmer Fredette continued his ridiculous per minute scoring efficiency, scoring 15 points in 15 minutes. Fredette had an especially great time in the second quarter, where he scored 11 of the Kings first 17 points in the first five minutes. His three pointer with 7:13 left gave the Kings their biggest lead of the game at 15 points.
Unfortunately Sacramento was not able to maintain that lead. A big factor was the stellar first half play of David Lee. Lee, coming off a week in which he was deemed the Western Conference Player of the Week had 22 of his 29 points in the first half, almost single-handedly keeping Golden State in the game.
The second half saw Stephen Curry take the reins for the Warriors though. Curry was able to score seemingly at will, using his smooth stroke to shoot when he had even the slightest bit of separation. It also helped that Sacramento's guards aren't exactly defensive stalwarts themselves, but Curry definitely played like the star that his team needed him to be. Still, the Kings were able to withstand much of his offensive barrage in the third quarter and hold an 11 point lead going into the final quarter.
Former King Carl "Top Hat" Landry got the party started in the fourth. Going both inside and out, Landry could not be stopped early on, scoring 10 of Golden State's first 12 points and cutting the lead to six points. Then came a salvo of three pointers from the Warriors, started by Jarrett Jack and followed up with two more by Stephen Curry. Curry's second three pointer gave the Warriors the lead at 114-112. Isaiah Thomas followed up with a three pointer of his own from the top of the key to take the lead right back. Jack was still feeling it though, and hit another three, and after getting fouled off of a Kings turnover, made two free throws to give the Warriors the 117-114 lead, their largest of the game.
Perhaps the biggest sequence of the game came just a minute or so later. With the game tied 118 all, John Salmons found himself guarded by Stephen Curry, who at that point had five fouls. The Kings wisely cleared out for Salmons, who posted up and forced the foul and ejection. While Salmons hit just one of his free throws, the ejection of Curry in crunch time was invaluable.
I haven't mentioned DeMarcus Cousins at all yet but his presence in the middle was a big boon, particularly on the glass. In the fourth quarter especially, he gave the Kings a few key second chances down the stretch. His presence inside also drew many fouls, which proved to be a difference maker in the game. Sacramento shot 17 more Free Throws than the Warriors and made 12 more.
Cousins also moved the ball, finishing with five assists. Selfishness was not a problem for the Kings for once, as they finished with 25 assists, tying a season-high. They also had just 9 turnovers. Six Kings finished with 3 or more assists for the game, and only Cousins had multiple turnovers.
Two huge three pointers helped create separation in the final minutes for the Kings. With the Kings up 119-118, Aaron Brooks nailed his third three of the night from the left wing over Jarrett Jack. On the other end, Jack got to the line but was just 1 of 2. Sacramento hit yet another three in response though, as the Bayou Bomber made yet another emphatic statement that his demise was greatly exaggerated, nailing a triple to put the Kings up six. From then on, the game essentially became a Free Throw shooting contest, one in which the Kings came out on top.
- Darren Rovell is an ass. That picture was taken before the game had started. I'm not saying it was a packed house or anything (12,855) but Rovell opted to use a picture taken from before game and exaggerate the emptiness of an arena. Good on Carmichael Dave for getting fans to tweet pictures of a much more full arena at Rovell, to which Rovell of course did not reply.
- DeMarcus Cousins used a hook shot in the post a few times tonight, much to my glee. Cousins needs to learn a simple but effective move like that to use as his go-to in the post more often. Cousins with an actually effective post-game would be damn near unstoppable.
- Stephen Curry is one of the best shooters I have ever seen. He's up there with Peja.
- Francisco Garcia took a hard fall in the first half and did not return. Sore lower back was the official diagnosis.
- JT was a beast on the glass and one of the few players on the court who played active defense tonight. 10 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks for the Kid.
- Not a good night for rookies. Thomas Robinson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli combined for 12 points on 4-17 shooting.
- Isaiah Thomas vs. Stephen Curry jump-ball was like the adorable little kitten picture of the NBA.
- Refs were pretty bad tonight, but fortunately for both sides. Steph's 6th foul was pretty sketchy, as was the foul Curry drew on Thornton with his kickout. Those are just a couple examples among many.
- Nostradumbass of the Night was Wonderchild with 3 points.