How do you replace 44 points and 16 rebounds a game? How do you compete with the best team in basketball without 2/3 of your "Big Three?" Competing with the Pacers, even at full strength, would be a huge accomplishment for the Kings. Without DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay though... someone would have to step up.
Michael Malone said his team would have to control/push the tempo to have a chance in this game and that's exactly what they did in the first quarter. The ball was tipped, both teams traded baskets for the first couple of mins... and then MARCUS FREAKING THORNTON happened! Lil Buckets dropped 23pts on 9-12 shooting in the 1st, and the Kings put 37 on the board against the best defense in the NBA.
Malone looked like a genius. The Pacers had no answer for the Kings uptempo attack. The Kings took a 60-50 lead into the half. But in the 3rd quarter, a combination of foul trouble and a shallow frontcourt began to catch up to Sacramento. The DeMarcus Cousins sized hole in the lineup was starting to show. What was a 10 point lead at the half, was whittled down to 1 midway through the 3rd. Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray were relegated to the bench early in the 3rd with 9 fouls between them, leaving Thompson/Landry/Williams to play extended minutes. But in a very UNKINGLY (that's a word now I decided) turn of events, the Kings battled back!
Marcus Thornton (career high 42pts) and Isaiah Thomas (38pts) combined for 80, and it was ALMOST enough. Operating on sheer will, the Kings withstood a series of Indiana runs by combining Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas, to form some kind of Captain Planet/Voltron character that scores all the points, and convinces his team to play crazy defense.
Unfortunately for Kings fans, the Pacers pulled back into the game late and the refs reared their ugly heads again. A series of questionable calls in the 4th, including a pivotal 4 point play from Paul George, sent the game into extra frames where the Kings ran out of gas.
A disappointing ending for sure but it's hard to be disappointed in the Kings' effort.
Watch for Akis' full recap in the morning.