by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

 
Thanks to the heroics of fourth-year wing James Johnson, the Sacramento Kings squeaked out what was initially a blowout, winning 106-105 over the New York Knicks at Sleep Train Arena on Friday.  Trailing the Kings by 21 points at halftime, the Knicks came alive in the third quarter and outscored Sacramento 31-16.  But the Kings managed to weather the storm in the fourth period, which was capped off by miraculous 3-point make by Johnson to win the game.

Notes and Analysis

  • James Johnson was the hero of the evening, burying a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to give the Kings the one-point victory.  Johnson scored a season-high 17 points on 8-for-14 shooting while playing the majority of his minutes as the reserve power forward. He added seven rebounds, three assists a block and a steal as well in 29 minutes for the Kings.
  • DeMarcus Cousins returned from his hiatus and played decent against a tough Knicks’ frontline.  The Kings starting center finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals in the win.  One of his steals came in the waning seconds and gave the Kings’ the final deciding possession.
  • In a surprise move, Isaiah Thomas returned to the starting line-up for the Kings, unseating Aaron Brooks in the process.  Brooks said the decision was made the previous day during practice when coach Keith Smart had them switch jersey’s and teams during scrimmage.  Thomas finished with 11 points and four assists in nearly 29 minutes of action.  Brooks provided a huge spark off the bench early, finishing with 10 points and three assists in 19 minutes.
  • Jimmer Fredette was incredible in the first half, scoring 15 points off the Kings bench while hitting six of his seven shots from the field.  He went scoreless in seven minutes of action in the second half, mostly due to the Knicks switching J.R. Smith onto him after the intermission.
  • Marcus Thornton had another strong performance tonight, finishing with a team-high 18 points on 5-for-12 shooting.  In the five games since retuning to the Kings, the team is 3-2.  In the three wins, Thornton is averaging 19.7 points per contest.  In the two losses, Thornton is averaging just 8.5 points per game.  As Marcus Thornton goes, so go the Kings.
  • There was a major switch in the rotation for Keith Smart.  Instead of Thomas Robinson and Chuck Hayes getting the majority of the reserve post minutes, Johnson got them instead.  Hayes saw just 3:33 of action and Robinson received his first DNP-CD of his young career.
  • Stat of the Night: Coming into tonight’s game, Johnson was 0-for-11 from 3-point land on the season.  Sacramento went 15-for-30 from behind the arc tonight and Johnson was one of seven Kings to take and hit the long ball.  This was also the third game in a row that the Kings had 28 assists or more.  Coming into that three-game stretch, the Kings season-high in team assists was 25, which they accomplished twice.
- James Ham

Three answers to three questions pondered

1. How many minutes does DeMarcus Cousins play?

In a shocking move by Keith Smart, Cousins started tonight’s game and played close to 32 minutes. After sitting out the last two and a half games, the Kings center looked the part. He played an solid first half, but came struggled following intermission. After scoring 11 points in the first half, he scored just four in the second, taking several shots which were forced. And in the third quarter alone, he racked up three of his five total fouls. It may take another game before the Kings big man rediscovers his conditioning.

2. Will the Kings be able to stop J.R. Smith?

With Carmelo Anthony out of commission, all eyes were on Smith. The explosive Knicks scorer managed to get his points, but in typical Smith fashion, it took a volume of shots to do so. Smith scored 28 points on 11-of-25 shooting from the field. He took an array of unbalanced attempts, which showed in the box score. But he’s capable of making them; his effort just wasn’t enough for the Knicks tonight.

3. Can the Kings contain the Knicks 3-point shooting?

New York was still able to get theirs from outside the arc. New York made 11-of-30 attempts from 3-point land on the night. However, it was the Knicks who had trouble defending the home team from beyond the arc. The Kings built a 21-point lead before halftime thanks to their red-hot shooting. The Kings shot 50 percent from 3-point land in tonight’s win, making 10-of-15 before the intermission break.

Quotes of the Game

Kings coach Keith Smart’s opening comments:

“That’s just how we drew it up – for the least likely guy to make the three and win the game.  No, but really, favor was on our side and we were able to get a win.  James Johnson made a great shot, but importantly we made some really nice defensive stops in the game.  We watched this team, scouted them to get ready to prepare and play against them.  You see them getting back in the game really quickly with their ability to shoot the ball and the ability of a point guard to orchestrate and take advantage of mistakes that could be made.  We got a little stagnant out there.  Going into halftime was the worst feeling that I’ve had because I know that you have to score the first four points in the third quarter when you have a lead that big.  When you don’t, the game changes quickly, and obviously, it did for us.  These young men stayed together and pulled together to get the win.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson on defending 3-point attempt by James Johnson:

A two doesn’t hurt you.  The only thing that can beat you is a three and we gambled when the ball came out of the deep corner for the steal and we came up empty.  (James) Johnson was able to get a catch-and-shoot-it three.  I mean, hey, it’s a game full of adventures.  Boy, I’ll tell you, we’ll bounce back.

DeMarcus Cousins on James Johnson’s last shot:

We tease him all the time about his shooting, but for him to have the confidence to shoot it and shoot it the right way and make it, that’s big for him. Hopefully that game-winner can carry over into other games and his shot can really get going.

Injury Notes

Tyreke Evans missed his 11th game of the season due to soreness in his left knee.  He’s targeting a return to the court Sunday in the Kings’ next game against the Boston Celtics.

TV call of James Johnson’s game-winning three

Radio call of Johnson’s buzzer-beating three

Video replay of Johnson’s shot via KingsFlix; radio call via Kevin Sherrets, Kings Radio Executive Producer.