The Sacramento Kings are fully embracing the Holiday spirit this December. For the fifth straight game, Sacramento was kind enough to gift-wrap their opponents a victory. But perhaps none was as spectacular as tonight's, thanks to the surprise twist.
"You know, we wanted to do something different", center DeMarcus Cousins said after the game. "We just sort of gave those other teams the game right away. It was nice, but it didn't really feel special you know? So we knew we had to step up our game tonight."
And step up their game they certainly did. Sacramento started rough but eventually broke out a 19 point lead in the second quarter thanks to the play of Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas. Fredette expanded on his performance, as he scored a game-high 12 points in the first half.
"We wanted that wow factor. Coach put Isaiah and I in and we were cooking, but we made sure not to get too out of hand. That's why Coach decided to take Isaiah out and put Aaron in near the end of the half. We needed to slow it down."
At halftime, Smart and his players really got into a charitable mood.
"First half was merely putting the present under the tree. We knew that the best part was still coming, and my guys couldn't wait", Smart told media after the game.
Following halftime the Kings did their best to get the Suns back into the game. The offense stagnated, passes would "mistakenly" go into opposing player's hands, and rotations were "missed". DeMarcus Cousins was among the most generous.
"I knew I had to get Marcin something pretty good this year because I felt kinda bad for torching him last year. So I'd take the ball down into the post, and instead of moving the ball or anything, I'd just pump fake the ball a couple times and try to shoot through his hands. I could tell he was having a blast."
Gortat finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 6 blocks, but he wasn't the only Sun enjoying his time out there on the court. Shannon Brown, he of the career 8.0 PPG and .419 FG% scored 22 points on 10-13 from the field, including the big go-ahead three in the third quarter.
"Man, I was getting kind of scared in the first half because they were pouring it on. I thought maybe they weren't going to be giving us a present this year or something. But man was I wrong. I started to figure it out when they were getting out of my way on defense and leaving me wide open in the corner for five seconds, but they almost had me early on. Great stuff."
Suns Forward Luis Scola shared Brown's sentiment.
"Yeah that was a fun one. They let me get a double-double with assists! Shoot, I've only had 18 games in my career with 5 assists or more. Just incredibly thoughtful. I need to get cracking though, I was just going to get them a gift card to T.J. Maxx."
Once the Suns knew they were being given the game, the Kings didn't bother trying to hide it anymore. Phoenix outscored the Kings 31-14 in the third quarter and 27-22 in the fourth. Jimmer Fredette tried to give it a sporting effort, but his 22 points in 22 minutes.
Forward James Johnson apparently wasn't in on the plan.
"Coach just told me to do what I do. But Jimmer and Isaiah were hot so I decided to just focus on attacking the basket instead of shooting unnecessary jumpers."
Johnson finished with 11 points on 5-6 shooting, one of his better efforts of the year, and Smart wasn't particularly pleased.
"I was getting a bit uncomfortable with how well James was playing, but in the end everything worked out."
Smart shouldn't have been worried, as the rest of the team managed the gameplan perfectly, especially coming out of timeouts. John Salmons expertly held the ball for five seconds on one inbounds play as no Kings would come to him. On another the Kings pretended to be unaware of the shot clock despite having a few minutes to draw up a play, and on yet another they simply let the Suns have the ball for an easy layup.
"I couldn't have been more proud about the way our guys executed those plays to imperfection."
Jimmer Fredette was quick to give credit to Coach Smart however.
"Coach deserves a lot of praise too. We got a bit out of hand in the first half with that lead so he let the starters handle most of that third quarter, and it was a great decision. Aaron and John were throwing balls everywhere, Cisco was jacking up shots with 20 seconds left on the shot clock, and Coach was right there, not calling timeouts and letting me sit till the 4th quarter. We couldn't have done this without him."
Sacramento's next game comes Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors. Asked what they had in store for them, Smart just smiled.
The Kings are truly an inspiration, and we can all learn lessons in charity and selflessness from them.
To congratulate Suns fans, visit Bright Side Of The Sun
(Quotes in this article are not actually from Kings and Suns personnel)
Nostradumbass of the Night was A Night At The Arco with 5 points.