by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

 
Three was the magic number for the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.

DeMarcus Cousins recorded his first-career triple-double, while a trio of fellow starters helped power the Kings to victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.  John Salmons, Jason Thompson and Isaiah Thomas combined to score  70 points on 27-of-38 shooting in Sacramento’s 118-96 win over Boston.  The Kings broke the game open in the fourth quarter, building a 26-point lead while making seven of their 10 made three-pointers in the final period.   With the victory, the Kings move to 11-19 overall and 9-7 at Sleep Train Arena.

Notes and Analysis

  • DeMarcus Cousins notched his first triple-double of his career, finishing the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.  Usually when his shot isn’t falling (like it wasn’t tonight), the big fella tries to shoot through the slump.  Tonight when his shot went astray, he found his teammates who rewarded him with assists.  This was a breakthrough-type game for Cousins.  Hopefully, he can build on the performance on the Kings’ four-game road trip.
  • Isaiah Thomas was a star tonight.  He made the Celtics look old and tired as he slashed through their defense on countless occasions.  Thomas finished one point shy of his career-high, scoring 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting and adding five assists.
  • Marcus Thornton started the game, but went down in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle.  He joins Aaron Brooks and Tyreke Evans on the injured list as the Kings venture out on the road.  There is no word on how long he will be out, but it didn’t look good.
  • With three-fifths of the backcourt injured, John Salmons came to the rescue.  The veteran wing finished with 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting and added four assists and six rebounds to his stat line.  The Kings are going to need him to keep it up, as they play short-handed over the next week or so.
  • Jason Thompson set the pace early in this one.  The veteran big man scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds in 32 minutes, but 13 of those points and five of those rebounds came in the first half.
  • Without Brooks to take up the point guard slack, Jimmer Fredette had to switch back to point guard, which he hadn’t been playiing lately.  He was aggressive and made a handful of nice passes that led directly to 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter.  Jimmer finished with 10 points and five assistst and played 22 minutes, including all 12 in the final period.  Like Salmons, the Kings are going to need Jimmer to play well over the next few games while other players heal.
  • The Kings tallied 28 assists tonight, which runs their streak to four games in a row with 28 or more.  Cousins led the way with 10, but assists take a team effort, which the Kings seem to be realizing.
  • Stat of the night: After going just 1-for-6 from behind the 3-point line in the first half, the Kings buried the Celtics with hot shooting , going 9-for-14 from distance after the break.  Six players hit a three, including James Johnson who has now hit his last two long balls after missing his first 11.
- James Ham

Three answers to three questions pondered

1.  Will Tyreke Evans return to the lineup?

The fourth-year guard did not return to the court as he had hoped Thursday.  The decision to sit his 12th game this season came from the medical staff according to Keith Smart.  His return to the court hinged upon how his knee responded to yesterday’s practice.  Evans will now seek a second opinion on the soreness that’s ailed him for the last month.

2.  Can the Kings push the tempo against the Celtics?

The Kings struggled to play uptempo to start the contest.  At times before intermission, they were lulled into a half-court pace by the Celtics.  Their fastbreak game showed in spurts, but didn’t really take off as much as they would’ve liked.  Instead, it was their ball movement and shooting that got them over the hump Sunday night.  In the fourth quarter alone, the Kings shot 7-of-9 from 3-point land and recorded nine of their 28 total assists.  It also helped the Kings happened to be playing an ageing team on the second-game of a back-to-back.

3.  Will James Johnson continue to see more minutes at power forward?

Besides a brief three-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, Johnson found himself primarily back on the wing on Sunday.    Johnson made some spectacular defensive plays, including a couple big blocks that initiated the Kings’ transition game.  He didn’t replicate his offensive output from two nights ago, but he played within himself, which led to an efficient and effective night.  Johnson finished with 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting, six rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes of action.

Quotes of the Game

Keith Smart’s opening remarks:

It was another good night of us passing the basketball and that makes a world of difference.  When you pass it, then it gets to the guys who can make the shots.  We did a great job with making wide-open shots.  We had a guy who got a triple-double tonight.  There were a lot of great passes and guys made a lot of guys passes out there.  We had a little trouble for a moment, but other than that, it was good.  We were losing bodies and had guys that weren’t able to play, but tonight these players stepped up and they have all year long for the most part.  It was a nice positive win for us.  We’ll go on this road trip now and try to get a few wins.

John Salmons on if he’s seeing things turn around a little for the Kings:

I think so.  We’re playing pretty well, particularly at home.  We’re going on the road and we know we’ve got one road win, so we’re going to be real conscious of that, to try to steal some of those.

Doc Rivers on playing a team like the Kings that’s under .500:

We thought we can win it all.  We really did, but when you don’t play well you don’t win.  The Knicks came in here and lost the other day, so it’s not like we’re the only team.  In the NBA, you can lose every night and you can every night.  I really believe that.  But to win, you have to play well.  Winning is hard and I don’t know if all of our guys get that yet.  You have to play hard to win in the NBA, one game.  It’s difficult and we’re not doing it.

Injury Notes

Tyreke Evans missed another game due to soreness in his left knee.  Aaron Brooks missed his first game of the year after tweaking his left ankle in practice yesterday.  Marcus Thornton left the game after spraining his left ankle in the third quarter.