Last year, Keith Smart made a pretty radical decision about halfway through the season to go with a three guard starting lineup and moving Tyreke Evans off the ball. In his place, Smart started rookie Isaiah Thomas, allowing him to run the team. It proved to be a good decision with Thomas thriving both as a playmaker and as a scorer in the starting lineup.
This year, Thomas was the starter from the get-go but the offense had been changed, as had the personnel he was playing with, and he struggled. Thomas eventually got benched for veteran Aaron Brooks, who seemingly fits Smart's offensive scheme much better. Since then, Thomas and Fredette have both seen vastly inconsistent playing time in the rotation, and at least for Isaiah, it has seemingly hurt his confidence.
Tonight though, we were reminded again of what Isaiah Thomas can do, while also lamenting the situation that forced it. Sacramento went down by 26 points in the first half as the offense faltered while Oklahoma City poured it on. Jimmer Fredette had been the first guard off the bench for the Kings tonight, but did not play much before being pulled back for Aaron Brooks. By the time Isaiah Thomas came in for the first time in the second half, the game already felt as if it were over. With 7:43 seconds left in the game, the Kings were still down by 24 points and as Grant Napear said "the rout was on".
Isaiah Thomas would have none of this.
Over the next five minutes, Thomas would lead the Kings' bench unit on a 23-4 run, in which Thomas scored 16 points, including four triples. Jimmer Fredette got fouled shooting a three from an Isaiah pass, and hit all three free throws to cut the lead to just five points with 3:20 second left.
Unfortunately for Sacramento, Oklahoma City brought their A-Team back in, and it proved to be too much for the bench to handle. Keith Smart chose to ride the players who had kept the comeback up, but I personally would have liked to see Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson return once it became a ballgame again and the Thunder were bringing out their big guns. Who knows if it would have made a difference, but ideally you want the most talent on the floor at the end of the game. Despite Isaiah Thomas' efforts, the Thunder had the most talent on the floor at the end of the game, and Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka were able to hold the Kings off.
Thomas finished with a team-high 26 points in just 16 minutes, two off of his career-high. He scored 23 points in the quarter, just two off Mitch Richmond's Sacramento-era record. It was a spectacular effort, and hopefully a reminder to Coach Keith Smart about exactly what Isaiah can do.
Aaron Brooks has been better than I expected he would, but I believe his presence on the team is hurting the development of both Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette, while not exactly leading to more success on the court. Sacramento cannot continue this charade of a Point Guard triumvirate. Moves need to be made, either in a more consistent rotation or a trade.
Thus ends Sacramento's first big road trip since the beginning of the season. They'll see a lot more road games before 2012 is through. Sunday will be a one-game pit stop at home as the Denver Nuggets come into town.
- Tyreke Evans continues to have a good year. 21 points on 8-12 from the field is great. He also spent a lot of the time on Russell Westbrook, who was just 4-13 from the field.
- The Kings saw some normally good shooters go cold tonight. John Salmons was just 1-7, Francisco Garcia 1-6, and Jimmer Fredette 0-5. Fredette missed a few big shots in crunch time, but they were all shots that I would want him to take, and that he will make more often than not.
- You never want to make role players have big offensive games, like defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha scoring 15 points.
- The Kings got dominated on the glass tonight 43-29, giving up 14 offensive rebounds. It really upsets me when I see Chuck Hayes and Thomas Robinson, both undersized for the Power Forward position let alone Center, continue to be thrust on the court together. I'd much rather see them paired with one of Thompson or Cousins, which is why I continue to stand by making Hayes a starter and Thompson the primary big off the bench (who can still play 30 minutes a game thanks to his versatility).
- At one point in the 3rd quarter, Keith Smart looked as pissed as I have ever seen him. He was visibly furious, presumably that the players weren't running the offense correctly, and I wonder if that played a role in the fact that the starters did not play most of the rest of the way.
- Nostradumbass of the Night was SayWhat? with 6 points.
|Final - 12.14.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||29||32||21||31||113|
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