This did not feel like a preseason game. The Kings and Warriors always combine for good games, especially in the last few years, and this one was no different. This game was Sacramento's biggest test in the preseason to date, and they rose to the occasion to come back from a 17 point second half deficit to remain undefeated at home.
The Kings held the Warriors to just 9 points in the 4th quarter, and were able to hang on for the victory after Johnny Salmons drilled a three to put Sacramento up for good. David Lee had the chance to tie the game after being fouled on the ensuing possession, but he missed his second free throw.
Sacramento overcame both foul trouble and sloppy ballhandling to win this game. DeMarcus Cousins fouled out in just under 22 minutes of playing time and Sacramento had 25 turnovers to just 17 assists. The Kings however managed to hold advantages in both rebounding (45 to 38) and free throws (24-32 to 12-19).
Isaiah Thomas was a big factor in turning around the game for Sacramento. He came into the game in the second half and instantly sparked the offense with some big shots. His final shot was a desperation long two that managed to bank in before the shot clock expired to put the Kings up 88-87.
More importantly than his offense though, Thomas stopped the bleeding on defense by taking it upon himself to make sure Stephen Curry didn't get any open looks. Curry finished with 24 points, including 5 threes, but most of that came in the first three quarters.
The Kings started Greivis Vasquez, Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins in what was deemed yet another exploratory game for the rotation. Vasquez shot well from the field in his time on the court but he had trouble running the offense, finishing with 6 turnovers to 3 assists in 22 minutes. His defense was anemic as well and a big part of why Sacramento fell behind by so much. This game may have cemented Isaiah Thomas as the starting Point Guard, at least for opening night while Vasquez continues to nurse his ankle back to health.
Marcus Thornton was Sacramento's only DNP-CD of probable rotation players. Coach Malone instead opted to divvy up the SG minutes between Fredette and McLemore. Fredette struggled offensively tonight, but the Warriors showed a lot of respect for his shooting ability by having Andre Iguodala shadow him for most of his time on the court. Rookie Ben McLemore had a slow start but came alive in the crucial fourth quarter, hitting a couple big shots and also grabbing some crucial rebounds, including one that set up the game winning three by Salmons. After the game, Malone said he expects Thornton to play in Friday's final preseason game against the Clippers.
DeMarcus Cousins did not dominate as he did in the last few games but he was still more than respectable aside from the fouls (a few of which were questionable). Cousins nearly had a double-double (11 points, 9 rebounds) in just under 22 minutes and did a good job of trying to take the ball inside against Andrew Bogut rather than just shoot jumpers.
Patrick Patterson struggled with his shot, going just 4-13 from the field, along with 5 turnovers, but he did a good job on the glass (8 rebounds) and on the defensive end. While Jason Thompson was more efficient (9 points on 4-6 shooting), Patterson still showed enough to merit continued time as the starting Power Forward.
Luc Mbah a Moute made his first appearance as a King since the last time Sacramento played the Warriors, playing 7 relatively unremarkable minutes in the 4th quarter. John Salmons had by far his best night of the preseason, especially offensively. He and Thomas scored the majority of Sacramento's 4th quarter points. Salmons' game winning three came after both Thomas and McLemore missed attempts of their own. Fortunately the Kings were able to corral the rebounds both times and good ball movement found Salmons wide open at the top of the arc.
With just one preseason game remaining, the rotation will begin to tighten. I expect that the starting five we see on Friday will end up being the starting five to start the regular season. If it were up to me, my current starting five would be Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins. I think that's the best balance of offense, defense, and consistency that Sacramento can put together right now.