The Kings rattled off yet another impressive victory tonight, their 3rd in a row on this 9 game homestand, guaranteeing a winning homestand regardless of the outcome on Thursday. They did by playing a very fast paced, fun style of basketball with a lot of ball movement. The team that has played these last few games is the team that we've been waiting for all season: a team that competes and is fun to watch.
The biggest improvement in this Kings team over recent days has been their offense which has been miles ahead of where they were earlier in the season. They once again had 25+ assists (28, tying their season high from against the Celtics), they're taking care of the ball (only 13 turnovers), and they're scoring at a high and efficient rate (3rd straight game of at least 115 or more points and they shot 53.2% from the field).
Marcus Thornton continued his incredible hot streak, scoring a game high 31 points (on 12-22 shooting), but also tallying 7 rebounds, 6 assists (and just 1 turnover), and 3 steals. Marcus has been absolutely stellar all-around offensively, whether it be spotting-up, cutting, or distributing. His ballhawking of the past few games has also gotten the Kings out in transition a lot more, where they've been killer (27 fast break points tonight for Sacramento).
Tyreke Evans returned to action tonight, coming off the bench. He had a solid game, scoring 13 points (6-11 from field), to go with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal in 24 minutes of action. 8 of his points came in the 4th quarter. The decision to bring Tyreke off the bench was surprisingly not Keith Smart's, but Tyreke's himself. In the Post-Game Press Conference, Smart said that he has a rule that players don't lose their starting spot due to injury, and so had penciled in Tyreke as the Small Forward for the night, but Tyreke told him to keep John in the lineup so as not to ruin the chemistry of the past two games. I really like to hear this kind of leadership and maturity coming from Tyreke, putting his ego aside for the betterment of the team. Also, Tyreke had the quote of the day in his Post-Game Interview with Jon Santiago of Cowbell Kingdom on his return from injury:
"I felt like I was in Space Jam and I was trying to get my powers back"
For Memphis, they weren't too bad offensively themselves, but they couldn't find a way to stop the Kings. All 5 Memphis starters finished with at least 13 points and Rudy Gay led the team with 22 points. Zach Randolph returned to the starting lineup after two games coming off the bench and finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds in 29 minutes. Marc Gasol nearly had a triple double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists.
Sacramento dominated offensively by continuously breaking down Memphis' defense and getting into the paint. The Kings easily shattered their season high for points in the paint by scoring a whopping 74 points there tonight. Tyreke Evans did most of his damage with his penetration, and so did Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas. Isaiah missed all 4 of his 3 point attempts, but was 5-6 on his other shots, almost all up close. The rookie from Washington finished with 18 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in 34 minutes.
Attacking the paint also allowed the Kings to get to the line a bunch, shooting 32 attempts. Alas, they missed 11 of those in an off-night from the line. DeMarcus was the only one who really shot poorly, going only 5 of 10 at the line.
DeMarcus Cousins was plagued with foul trouble all night, and saw only 25 minutes of action. That didn't stop him from killing the Grizzlies down low though, as he still managed 23 points on 16 shots. DeMarcus only grabbed 5 rebounds in that time, but he dished out 3 assists, and had 4 steals and a couple blocks. Cousins was just blowing right by whoever Memphis threw at him, and considering that he was going up against Marc Gasol (an excellent defender in his own right), that shows you just how offensively talented DeMarcus is. One thing the big fella was doing differently this game was going up with more power, something I've been wanting him to do for a while. He's more likely to draw fouls that way, as well as simply finish.
The Kings got another big performance out of Jason Thompson as well. Jason played 41 minutes (thanks to foul trouble to both DeMarcus and Chuck) and had 14 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block. He did a great job of playing off the ball as well, getting right to the rim and calling for the ball, and his teammates did a better job of finding him for the easy flush.
Sacramento controlled this game pretty much the entire way through after a slow first couple of minutes that saw Memphis start out on a 7-2 run. Marcus Thornton came out on fire, scoring 16 points in the first quarter alone. Isaiah Thomas also chipped in 9 of his points in the quarter as the Kings scored 37 in the first period and stretched the lead out thanks to a strong finish.
Finishing quarters strong has been a weakness of this Kings' team all year long but they did a great job of it tonight. The second quarter especially was notable, as Memphis managed to claw their way back into the game, going on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to two with just over two minutes left in the half. Sacramento answered back with a 10-2 run of their own to end the half, started off by this ferocious jam by DeMarcus Cousins:
and capped off by a Marcus Thornton steal that led to an excellent fastbreak sequence, giving the Kings a 10 point lead going into halftime.
Coming out of the half, both teams essentially traded baskets for a while, with the Kings not able to get Memphis out of the 8-12 point range, and Memphis not being able to get it any lower. That changed in the 4th quarter though as the Grizzlies went on a 6-0 run that cut the lead to 95-92 with 9:41 left. Tyreke Evans came back and scored four straight points in response, both off of off-ball cuts to the paint.
Soon after the Grizzlies got a little too physical defensively and acquired all 5 team fouls needed to be put in the penalty within the next minute of play. I'm not exaggerating. Their 1st came on a Mareese Speights foul with 8:45 left and the last came on a Mike Conley foul with 7:54 left. That would end up severely costing the Grizzlies as the Kings would go on to shoot 12 free throws from that point on, making 9 of them. The Kings were able to trade baskets or free throws with Memphis from that point on, and the lead was never in real danger of disappearing.
The Kings have transformed into a team I really enjoy watching over this past week, and I hope that this isn't a mere fluke, but a sign of things to come. They'll get a chance to cap off this homestand with a flourish on Thursday when the Utah Jazz come into town.
- Officiating was bad tonight, but it was bad on both sides. We got away with about as much, if not more, than Memphis did.
- I liked seeing Donté drive instead of settle for outside shots. He had a couple nice finishes inside in his short stint.
- Chuck Hayes threw a SICK alley-oop to Travis Outlaw in the 2nd quarter. Chuck has some great vision from that high post.
- Hassan Whiteside saw three significant minutes due to the foul trouble of both Cousins and Hayes, and had two blocks during that time. One of them it looked like he blocked it with his elbow his arm was so long. Hassan really needs to learn how to box out though, he let Speights get right by him for a couple of putbacks.
- I think the league needs to make a couple of rule changes. I think there needs to be some sort of advantage call like from soccer or hockey so that when a team is on a fastbreak, a silly foul won't end up costing the team two points. Just let them play on when it's more beneficial to the offensive team. The other rule I think should be changed is that a foul shouldn't be called when there's literally nothing a player can do about it (as in he's lying hurt on the floor). My example from tonight is when DeMarcus fell to the ground, and then Zach Randolph tripped over him. The foul was called on DeMarcus, but there was literally nothing DeMarcus could have done. I wish they would just give the Grizzlies the ball on the side for something like that.
- The best Grant and Jerry VSP spot has to be the one I heard on the radio on the drive home. It went something like this. Jerry: "Grant, look at how much money Slamson saved by using VSP! He bought his own cheering section." Grant : "Hmm... I think I'd like one too". Jerry: "Now Grant, I don't think you could save THAT much money".
- Late in the 4th quarter, Cousins was on the bench with his 6th foul and was up cheering his teammates. Keith Smart gave him his jacket and told him to be the coach. I saw him in the jacket at the games and wasn't sure what was going on, but I saw the video afterwards and it cracked me up.
- Shout-out to Mr. & Mrs. Sign Lady for the conversation we had before the game. You guys are the best!