For seemingly the first time this year, the Kings followed up an awesome victory against a top-tier opponent (the Celtics on Friday) with a big win their next game. In every previous huge win (Lakers, Thunder, Spurs, Mavericks), Sacramento did not come out with the same energy and lost.
The Kings were once again without Tyreke Evans (ankle), Francisco Garcia (wrist) and J.J. Hickson (back), but Minnesota was hurting as well, with Ricky Rubio (knee) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle) out. The first half was a high-scoring affair with both teams battling each other to a 57-57 standstill at the half. It looked as if the first team that could start playing a little bit of defense was going to win.
Luckily for us, it was the Kings who stepped up to the challenge. After a 31 point first quarter for Minnesota, they scored less than the previous quarter in each ensuing quarter, leading up to just 17 points scored in the final period. Sacramento outscored the Timberwolves 58-42 in the second half, as the offense continued to click and the defensive effort stepped up a few notches.
Marcus Thornton had another big game, with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in 39 minutes. Marcus did most of his damage by attacking the paint, as his outside shot was a bit off for most of the night. Isaiah Thomas also chipped in 18 points (including 4 threes), and 4 other players finished in double digits.
Minnesota's Kevin Love (21 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists) led his team in scoring, but he struggled from the field, going just 7-20. Derrick Williams, the 2nd pick from this past draft, was by far the most efficient Minnesota player, scoring 16 points on 8 shots to go with 9 boards and 2 assists with no turnovers in 33 minutes. He's going to become a very nice player.
Turnovers were a huge problem for the Timberwolves as they had 21 to just 18 assists. The Kings did a great job of scoring off those mistakes, with 29 points off turnovers. The Kings did get a lot of deflections and 11 steals, but quite a few of those turnovers were just bad passes and miscommunication. Conversely the Kings did a great job taking care of the ball, with only 11 miscues to 21 assists. The ball movement from Sacramento has improved ten-fold from where it was at the beginning of the season. This possession in particular really highlights that.
The Kings won despite a poor showing from the man in the middle, DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins looked to get going early with Pekovic out, but he couldn't get anything going from the field. The first possession of the game, DeMarcus faced up on Darko Milicic and blew right by him to the basket, but the dunk attempt popped out. His next few possessions either resulted in a turnover by offensive foul, or simple missed shots. He began to force it, and didn't score from the field at all in the first half. He did a little bit better in the second, but only finished with 9 points and 2 rebounds in 21 minutes, a very uncharacteristic performance.
His big men counterparts, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes, more than picked up the slack though. Jason had another phenomenal game, with 13 points and 10 rebounds, missing just one shot from the field and no free throws. He also had two assists, including one ridiculous bounce pass through about three Timberwolves to find Marcus Thornton at the basket. Grant said on the air that Jason's improvement over the past few games has been thanks to the work of recently-hired Big Man coach Clifford Ray, who has stressed the importance of patience to Jason. If Jason keeps playing like this, I can't wait to see what Ray does with DeMarcus Cousins.
Chuck Hayes had by far his best game as a Sacramento King. The Timberwolves doubled off of him incredibly often, not seeing him as an offensive threat. The Kings did a great job of driving, drawing attention, and then dishing to Chuck right at the rim as he was left open. Chuck also did a good job of putting in baskets and on playing Kevin Love straight up. The Chuckwagon finished with a season-high 12 points (5-7 from the field) to go with 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and a couple blocks in 27 minutes of action. As Grant mentioned on air, Chuck is now playing without the constrictive shoulder brace and now has full range of motion on his left arm, which helps his play.
Jimmer Fredette was just 3-11 from the field, missing all 5 of his threes (one of those shouldn't count, it was a pointless heave at the final buzzer), but they were shots that you want to see Jimmer taking. Jimmer did a good job of finding open teammates, and had 4 assists to just 1 turnover.
John Salmons kept up his solid play of late, with 15 points and 3 assists on 50% shooting. It's gotten to the point where I don't cringe every time he pulls up for a shot. As I was watching Salmons, I was thinking to myself about what Tyreke Evans role should be when he comes back. I think user SavageBeast (sorry if I'm misattributing) asked a while back why nobody ever suggested maybe moving Tyreke Evans to the bench as the super 6th man. I know it's been just two games, but this Kings lineup has done great work against two pretty good teams. I'm not saying I'm fully for bringing Tyreke off the bench when he comes back, but should it be considered? Just a thought.
The Donté Greene Show was in full effect tonight as he was a part of some major highlights, but more importantly had a solid game with 11 points, 7 rebounds and a block in 21 minutes. He had this monster putback dunk off a missed Jimmer three:
and also a huge block on Kevin Love that led to this ridiculous dunk by Tyler Honeycutt, who finally got to show off his ridiculous hops in a game:
These two dunks were part of a couple minute sequence in the 4th quarter that has to rank up there in my favorite moments of the season. It started at about the 5 minute mark with the Kings up 13, so still plenty of time remaining for Minnesota to come back. Martell Webster missed a three, but the offensive rebound was grabbed by Michael Beasley. Thus began a Minnesota possession in which they had FIVE attempts at a basket, all stymied. After Chuck Hayes blocked the final attempt, the Kings finally got a hold of the rebound.
It was at this point Tyler Honeycutt came in for Marcus Thornton, a curious substitution to me at that point because there was still plenty of time for Minnesota to make a game of it, and Thornton had been playing well. My fears were allayed soon after though, as Donté blocked Love's layup attempt and kept it in bounds. He threw it up to a streaking Jimmer Fredette, who found Honeycutt for the slam you saw above. Then Luke Ridnour tossed a lazy pass that was picked off by Travis Outlaw, who threw down his own two hand slam, getting the Wolves to call a timeout and the Kings bench to run to the court and celebrate. It was definitely among the most excited as I've seen them this year. Donté's three on the next possession after the timeout put the Kings up by 20 and it was garbage time after that.
It was just a great overall team effort and I was incredibly glad the Kings found the motivation they had been lacking against other non-elite opponents. I hope they bring the same motivation on Tuesday when Memphis rolls into town.
- Am I the only one who noticed or did the Kings bite on an inordinate number of pump fakes?
- Segment making fun of Jerry's pants: Gold. Love the chemistry between Grant and Jerry.
- Coming out of a timeout early in the 4th quarter the Kings showed a teenage girl jumping up and down dancing and clapping her hands and it just looked hilarious. Someone needs to get a GIF of this.
- J.J. Barea and Kevin Love almost got into a fight on the T-Wolves bench in the 4th quarter, wonder what that was about.
- Marcus Thornton needs to pass on fastbreaks more often.
- Jerry: "I think some people pay too much attention to John Salmons' facial expressions than how he plays". Facial expression, Jerry. Singular. (I kid, I kid.)
- I am so glad we drafted Jason Thompson over Anthony Randolph back in 2008.
- What the hell is up with Martell Webter's hair??