Early on this looked like it was going to be a sour note for Sacramento's preseason to end on. The Clippers got on a roll early, dunking left and right and seemingly nobody able to stop Chris Paul. The starting lineup was getting torched on both ends of the court and both DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson had to leave the game after just 7 minutes because of foul trouble. By the time Mike Malone put the bench in, the Kings had dug themselves a 14 point hole.
Fortunately the bench, led by Isaiah Thomas, was able to get things under control. Not only did the Kings start to make shots, the defense really tightened up, even with Jamal Crawford in for Los Angeles. To be fair to LA they also had their second unit in for most of Sacramento's rally, but not much changed once the starters came back in. Sacramento's bench unit continued to play well and by the time the first half had ended Sacramento was up by 6 after outscoring the Clippers 37 to 21 in the second quarter. Thomas himself had 18 points in the first half alone.
The bench and halftime seemed to reinvigorate the starters as well because they came into the third quarter like men on a mission. Greivis Vasquez's passes were on point, Marcus Thornton started nailing shots, DeMarcus Cousins began abusing both DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin down low, and Los Angeles continued to struggle offensively. By the time the 4th quarter came around, the game was basically decided in Sacramento's favor. The Clippers did go on a bit of a mini-run late in the 4th when all the threes they were jacking up finally started falling, but it was too little too late. It was an excellent way for Sacramento to finish the preseason. They held Los Angeles to under 40% from the field, outrebounded them 51 to 40, and had 28 assists to just 11 turnovers (compared to 20 and 17 for L.A.). Chris Paul led the Clippers with 23 points on just 12 shots, but only had 3 assists.
Thomas was again the man of the night, finishing with 27 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, but he was far from the lone bright spot. DeMarcus Cousins did a remarkable job, particularly in the second half, of getting to the basket and showing patience in the paint against the very long and athletic DeAndre Jordan. Cousins managed to score 20 points on 16 shots in just 19 minutes to go along with 7 boards.
Marcus Thornton also finally got going in the preseason, scoring 17 points on 7-13 shooting with 6 rebounds. Thornton and Vasquez were terrors on the fastbreak tonight. Speaking of Vasquez, this was by far his best game as a member of the Kings, and he didn't score a point in it. Instead he had 12 assists (9 in the 3rd quarter), 3 rebounds, 2 steals and no turnovers. He showed particularly good rapport with DeMarcus Cousins, feeding the big man at opportune times down low in pick and roll situations. That's a partnership I really like.
Rookie Ben McLemore didn't have his best shooting night, going just 3-9 and 1-6 from downtown but I still liked what he did. He was active on both ends of the court, and the shots he was taking weren't bad shots. He scored 8 points, and managed to contribute elsewhere with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal.
Jason Thompson played backup Center and nearly had a double-double with 9 points and 8 rebounds. He did shoot just 3-10 from the line though, which is a bit worrisome. We've seen JT struggle at the line at times, but he is a decent FT shooter for his career so here's hoping this was only an off night for him.
All in all, this was a very successful preseason. While wins and losses don't count for anything, the Kings showed in both of the last two games that they can hang with very good teams, and they also showed that they can take care of business against bad teams. Even in the two losses, the Kings were in the game at some point in the 4th quarter. In terms of both defense and sharing the ball, the team looked much better than in previous season. I am hopeful that improvement carries over into the regular season.
The season that many never believed would happen starts Wednesday. Get excited Sacramento.
More from Sactown Royalty:
- Kings vs. Clippers: Preseason ends in Los Angeles
- Kings veterans say there's a 'different vibe' this season
- Mail Sac Thursday: 2 many 2 guards, opening night fan plans
- David Stern says Sacramento arena project is going 'swimmingly'
- Kings vs. Warriors Score: Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons come through in the clutch as Sacramento wins 91-90