by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

 
The final 11 minutes were all Isaiah Thomas needed to make his imprint on the game.

After scoring just six points in the first 36, Thomas took over in the fourth quarter.  He scored 17 of the Kings’ 33 points in the final period, leading the Kings to a 117-111 win over the Houston Rockets Sunday night.

Houston had built a nine-point lead when Thomas and the Kings began their comeback.  An 8-2 run cut the Rockets’ lead to three and in the final eight minutes, the Kings outscored Houston 31-16.

The win moves the Kings to 19-33 overall and 14-12 at Sleep Train Arena.  The Kings wrap up their pre All-Star schedule with two road games, beginning with a visit to Memphis on Tuesday.

Notes and Analysis

  • The Pizza Guy delivered in the fourth quarter.  After struggling through the game’s first three periods, Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 23 points in the deciding fourth quarter.  He went 3-for-5 from the field, 2-for-3 from long-range and a perfect 9-for-9 from the line in 11 minutes of fourth quarter action.  He also finished the game with six assists and just two turnovers in 33 total minutes.
  • John Salmons was clutch down the stretch as well.  He scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter on 1-for-1 shooting from 3-point land and 7-for-7 attempts from the line.  Keith Smart used Salmons and Francisco Garcia to guard James Harden down the stretch, leaving Tyreke Evans on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.
  • DeMarcus Cousins looked like he was in for a huge night, but foul trouble derailed him in the third quarter and Smart stuck with Chuck Hayes for most of the fourth.  Cousins still scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but played just 24 minutes.
  • Hayes had one of his better games of the season.  The veteran defensive stopper grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds and finished with eight points in 24 minutes.  He played solid defense down the stretch on a much bigger Omer Asik as well.
  • Garcia played most of the fourth quarter with Thomas, Salmons, Thompson and Hayes, delivering two huge 3-point baskets and playing spirited defense on the Rockets’ wing players.  Cisco finished with 11 points and three rebounds in 18 minutes off the Kings bench.
  • After a huge game against the Jazz last night, Marcus Thornton disappeared in this one, scoring just three points on 1-for-4 shooting in 19 minutes.
  • Stat of the Night: The Kings shot an astounding 55-percent from behind the 3-point line tonight, including 5-for-8 in the deciding fourth quarter.  They also went 26-for-27 from the free throw line and a perfect 16-for-16 in the fourth as the Rockets tried to foul their way back into the game.
- James Ham

Three answers to three questions pondered

1.  Will the Kings have an answer for James Harden?

Harden was dominant in the second and third quarters.  The Rockets guard scored 18 of his 30 points in those two periods.  But he didn’t get off to a great start – he shot just 40 percent from the field in the first quarter, where the Kings managed to do damage early.  And in the fourth quarter, the Kings found a way to slow Harden down.  He scored just five points in the decisive final period.  Tyreke Evans wasn’t the answer to Harden on the Kings’ side of the floor, but John Salmons stepped up in a major way to duel Harden on Sunday.  Salmons scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth period.

2.  Will Omer Asik be a defensive nuisance to DeMarcus Cousins?

Cousins had his way Asik to start the game.  Cousins scored 10 points of 5-of-7 shooting in the first quarter alone.  Asik and the Rockets’ defense were really hurt by Cousins off the dribble and from the perimeter.  More times than not, playing outside in doesn’t work in Cousins’ favor (see his career field-goal percentage).  But tonight, that wasn’t the case.  Unfortunately, foul trouble is what cost the 22-year-old center from leaving a bigger imprint on the outcome of this game.

3.  Who wins the point guard battle between Isaiah Thomas and Jeremy Lin?

Both guards didn’t make much of an impact early.  Lin did edge Thomas before halftime by coming alive in the second quarter.  The third-year guard scored scored eight points on 3-of-4 shooting in the second period.  But in the end, it would be Thomas who would make the biggest impression on the game’s outcome.  After playing sporadically in the second and third quarters, Thomas came alive in the final frame.  Thomas turned up his aggression in the fourth period and drew Lin’s sixth and final foul with three minutes to go in the game.

Quotes of the Game

Keith Smart’s opening comments:

That was another high-energy game.  This team (Houston) has the capability of scoring in big numbers.  They have James Harden, who is going to keep attacking at all times.  We all knew that it would be tough to slow him down because he has the ability to shoot the three, drive the basketball and draw fouls.  We wanted to slow some of their guys down who have been playing really well like Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons.  Late in the game, our guys did a great job of working, talking and switching in order to not give up wide-open threes.  They did a great job with that.  Chuck Hayes and Francisco Garcia did an excellent job on the floor.  Isaiah Thomas made some big shots, some threes and also some drives to the basket.

Chuck Hayes on getting a win against his old team:

It’s weird.  All of my old teammates, no one is on the team anymore except for (Patrick) Patterson.  It’s cool.  It’s just another game.  The only difference is the friends that I have in Houston.  They got to see the game.

Jeremy Lin on Isaiah Thomas:

He got to the paint.  He got fouled a lot, so he did a good job of drawing fouls and pump fakes and things like that.  He did a great job.  Got to the line and had him a really efficient game.