Well that was a fun little win, just in time for Christmas. No DeMarcus Cousins, no Tyreke Evans, but the Kings took care of business at home, with everyone stepping up to the plate in some way.
Sacramento actually got off to kind of a rough start. A six point first quarter deficit quickly became 10 points in the early part of the second quarter. The bench responded with a big 16-0 run of their own to take the lead back, with former Blazer Travis Outlaw coming up huge. Outlaw was scoring both inside and out, showing confidence and poise. This is the second time this month that Outlaw has had a big game against his old team. Perhaps the Kings should outfit him with some sort of advanced glasses that show the opponents as wearing Trail Blazers jerseys.
Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas were also big factors in that first half run. They shared the ball handling and play making duties, while also taking turns to score. Under their guidance the Kings were able to further extend the lead into double digits. The Kings had some great chances to push the lead even further before the half, but missed some great shots, including a dunk from Thomas Robinson that would have brought the house down but unfortunately caromed off the back rim. By the end of the half, the Kings had 17 assists already, 11 of those in the second quarter. For perspective, the Kings have already had 9 games this season with 17 or less assists for the entire game.
The Blazers came back with a bit more passion in the second half, chipping away at Sacramento's lead but never able to get all the way back as the starters, namely Marcus Thornton and John Salmons, managed to hold them off with shots of their own. The closest Portland got was 66-65 with 4:37 left, but then James Johnson of all people scored four points in a row to bump it to five. Johnson got the start at Power Forward tonight for the suspended DeMarcus Cousins and had himself another decent game, although he did have trouble keeping the Blazers' bigs off the offensive glass.
Aaron Brooks came to life near the end of the third quarter with a couple of big shots to push the Kings lead back up to nine points. He ended the third quarter with a big three pointer from the K of the center logo. It gave the Kings momentum going into the final quarter, momentum that they never lost, pushing the lead to as much 18 points in the final quarter. In the final minutes both coaches emptied their benches, even resulting in our first Tyler Honeycutt sighting of the season! Unfortunately he didn't really make that great of an impression.
Sacramento finished with a season high 31 assists, a number they haven't reached since the 2010-11 season. They kept the turnovers under control as well, with just 14. While there were some bad shots taken at times, there was very little isolation play going on, which was very nice to see. Every King was sharing the ball, and seven Kings had two or more assists, led by Salmons' 7. Brooks had 6, and Isaiah/Jimmer combined for 9 off the bench.
The Kings defense was also active throughout, rotating and staying in front of their men. The Blazers helped out a bit by missing some wide open shots of their own at times, along with some bad decision making. For example, Ronnie Price, career sub-40% shooter and just about 30% from three, jacked up three triples and missed all five of his shots. Nicolas Batum, a very good three point shooter, missed a couple really badly and was just 2-8 from long range. Batum finished just 4-12, in no small part thanks to the excellent defense of John Salmons
The Kings will not have long to celebrate this victory as they'll face the same team again this Wednesday in Portland. They will have to play with the same unselfish and competitive attitude they had tonight, with or without Cousins and Evans.
- T-Rob has some good defensive instincts and has impressed me more on that end this year than on offense. At one point he got switched onto Damian Lillard and successfully stayed in front of him and forced him to give the ball up. With more experience, he can turn out to be a very solid defender.
- James Johnson may have turned a corner. I no longer squirm whenever he has the ball on offense, particularly when he attacks the basket. He does seem well suited to play the four-spot at times, and if his jumper really is improving under Alex English's tutelage, he'll see more time as the season goes on.
- I was unaware that Meyers Leonard could hit an outside jumper, but he showed good form on it. I just looked it up and he's an incredibly good free throw shooter for a big man, currently 28 of 32 on the season.
- Even though he played just 3 minutes, Honeycutt looked like he was trying to do a bit too much out there. That'll happen when you're trying to earn some time.
- I love Isaiah, but there needs to be a ban on having more than one Pizza Guys commercial during the commercial breaks. Two in the same break gets old. Two in every break...
- Nostradumbasses of the Night were Deleran, eISAVinator, norcalfan12, gregsactly, lay-it-up-like-a-man, ScoobyGover, ScoobyDaughter, markdog333, the WWB and 10KingsFan10 with an astounding ... 2 points.