This winning thing is kind of fun. Sacramento won its third straight game and got their first road victory to boot. They did it without Tyreke Evans, out with a sore left knee for the fourth time in five games, and they did it on a second night of a back-to-back. They did it with big contributions from guys like John Salmons and Travis Outlaw, players that have (to put it lightly) underwhelmed since joining the Kings last year.
Sacramento was able to get control and maintain it from the get-go as John Salmons set the tone, both with his scoring and his passing. In Evans absence, Salmons handled the ball a lot more and it worked great. In the first quarter alone, Salmons had six assists as the Kings got out to a 12 point lead. For comparison's sake, the most assists a King has gotten in a game this year before tonight was 7.
Friday against the Magic, it was the bench players who stood out in the victory; The opposite occurred tonight. While Sacramento's starters managed to start great, the bench unit came in during the second quarter and let the Blazers back into the game. Marcus Thornton struggled again with his shot, finishing the game just 2-9. Portland held the Kings to just 13 points in the 2nd quarter but the Kings were able to maintain a slim lead going into halftime.
The second half began just as strongly as the first one did as the starters didn't miss a step. Sacramento opened up with a barrage of three pointers, with their first four made shots of the third quarter being threes. The only thing keeping Portland in the game early on was the fact that Damian Lillard and J.J. Hickson were operating the pick-and-roll game to perfection.
Portland was able to keep it close for the majority of the third quarter. Nicolas Batum, who hadn't played much because of a sore back, hit a three pointer with 2:15 left to make it 71-65. This is about the time another unlikely hero stepped up to the plate for the Kings. Travis Outlaw, he of 13 DNP-CDs this year, came in and played well in his old stomping grounds. He cut to the basket off the ball for an easy dunk. A couple plays later he stole a Blazer pass and then converted on a jumper on the other end. By the time the third quarter had ended, Sacramento had regained their 12 point lead.
Salmons and Outlaw continued to do damage in the fourth. Salmons attacked the basket at will, either getting easy shots for himself or others. Outlaw couldn't miss from the floor and was working hard defensively. Isaiah Thomas came in for Aaron Brooks and redeemed himself for the bad second quarter as well, moving the ball well and doing a good job on Damian Lillard defensively. Thomas hit a three pointer with 4:39 left to give Sacramento a 20 point lead, its largest margin of the year. The game was pretty much over at that point, as the Kings won in convincing fashion.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the contributions of the other starters besides John Salmons. DeMarcus Cousins had a rough shooting night (just 6-17) but he had another double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds, he moved the ball well and he did a decent job defensively against LaMarcus Aldridge. I also liked seeing Cousins concentrate on a post-up game. He wasn't particularly successful, but that's because he needs practice at it. Developing a solid half hook in the post would be a huge boon to his game.
Jason Thompson had another quietly effective night, putting up a near double-double with 12 points, 8 boards and 2 steals in 29 minutes. Francisco Garcia, who started in Tyreke's place for the second night in a row, again played well, although I would have perhaps liked to see him be a bit better about what kind of shots to take (no step back long twos please). Still, his help defense and spot-up ability helped big time. Aaron Brooks shot the ball well and didn't do as bad of a job on Damian Lillard as I thought he would.
Jimmer Fredette didn't get the call tonight, but I can kind of see why. Portland has a couple of big guards that like to post-up, and Jimmer doesn't have the lateral quickness to stay in front of Damian Lillard. Still, with Thornton struggling, I would have liked to see the Isaiah-Jimmer backcourt tried out again, particularly in the fourth quarter when the game had already been decided.
This was a great victory for the team and a much needed confidence booster heading into three more road games, starting Monday in Dallas. Hopefully the team can continue to play at this high level, and having a healthy Tyreke Evans (if he's available) will be nice too.
- Isaiah's dad has less facial expression than John Salmons. The television crew cut to him a couple times after Isaiah scored in the fourth quarter and he looked stone faced both times. Jerry's commentary on it was pretty funny.
- Speaking of Jerry's commentary, he had some great moments tonight. One of my favorites was his imagined conversation between Pete Youngman and John Salmons after Salmons had gotten hit in the head. Jerry said Salmons was probably asking Youngman "Who am I" and said Youngman should tell him "LeBron James". It was particularly fitting when Salmons hit an acrobatic and-one the next time down the court.
- This was only the 11th victory in 49 attempts for the Sacramento Kings at the Rose Garden.
- Third straight game the Kings have shot more free throws than their opponents. I don't think it's a coincidence that all three games have been wins. Usually the team with more free throws is the aggressor.
- Nostradumbasses of the Night were A Night At The Arco, caseycheesecake, gregsactly, KINGKENJI, lay-it-up-like-a-man, LOUiECOG, norcalfan12, ThomasGQ, and VenomySnicket who all had 3 points. Bizarro boxscore night will do that.