CK Press Box Report: Sacramento Kings 107, Phoenix Suns 104

by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

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By halftime, Tuesday’s game at Sleep Train Arena seemed like more of the same from the Sacramento Kings.  The Kings squandered a lead as large as 11 points and the effort appeared to be lacking headed into intermission.

But the Kings came out of halftime with purpose and used defense to ensure them of victory.  In the fourth period, Sacramento held the Phoenix Suns to just 16 points on 31.8-percent shooting en route to a 107-104 win at home.

“We didn’t defend most of the night,” said Malone, who was pleased with his team’s overall defensive effort. “But one of our goals is to hold our opponent to 20 points or less in the fourth quarter and to hold them to 16 points and (around 30) percent from the field when we needed to was great. I give all of the credit to our guys. We made plays — just enough of them to get the win. It started with our fourth-quarter defense.”

The Kings were also powered by performances of their three most talented players.  DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore and Isaiah Thomas combined to score 65 of Sacramento’s season-high 107 points.

“We were executing,” Thomas said of the Kings’ fourth quarter performance.  “We were just playing basketball and trying to find the open man and make plays for each other and we did that.  Everybody was scoring.  Ben had a good game, DeMarcus had a good game and then…Travis hit a big shot and then I hit the two free throws.  It was everybody tonight.”

The game reached a crescendo in the final minute, where the Kings trailed by just two points.  With 40 seconds to go, the Kings turned to veteran Travis Outlaw, who nailed a 15-foot jumper at the top of the key to tie the game at 104.  A turnover by the Suns on the following possession led to two free throws by Thomas to take a two-point lead.

“That was a huge shot that he made,” Malone said of Outlaw’s timely bucket. “Travis is a guy that comes early and stays late, he really puts time in. You always root for guys like that. His turnaround jump shot late in the shot clock was a huge basket for us in that win.”

Sacramento overcame a sloppy second period in which they committed nine of a season-high 19 turnovers.  That allowed Phoenix to score an easy 23 points off turnovers.  However, the Kings made up for their ball-handling woes with an impressive performance on the glass.  The Kings out-rebounded the Suns by 17 and scored 17 second-chance points while grabbing 15 offensive rebounds in the process.

The Kings improve their record to 3-7 and 3-5 at home.  They hit the road beginning tomorrow in Phoenix against the same Suns’ team they defeated Tuesday evening.

Notes and Analysis

  • Cousins overcame an injured left shoulder to lead the Kings to a much-needed victory on their home floor. The Kings starting center finished the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks in 35 minutes of action. Cousins shifted into beast mode tonight and the Suns had no answer.
  • McLemore finally looked comfortable in the starting lineup, tying a season and career-high with 19 points on the night. Unfortunately, McLemore let Gerald Green get hot, which is always a difficult proposition. Green finished with 23 points, including four three pointers and a couple of highlight reel dunks.
  • Where would the Kings be without Thomas? The pint-size point guard finished with 19 points and three assists in 24 minutes of action. There are certain nights when Thomas will have to take over a game offensively and tonight was one of those games. You want more than three assists from a point guard, but without his points and energy, the Kings lose this game by a ton.
  • Outlaw wasn’t the first small forward off the bench tonight, but he probably will be for the foreseeable future. John Salmons looked horrendous in his six minutes of play and Malone responded quickly with Outlaw. The veteran forward struggled to get his offense going, but grabbed nine rebounds and tied the game with 40 seconds remaining. When was the last time the Kings received 16 rebounds (Outlaw with nine, Luc Mbah a Moute with seven) from the small forward position?
  • There was a Jimmer Fredette sighting in Sacramento Tuesday. The seldom-used reserve was the first shooting guard off the bench. It wasn’t always pretty, but for a guy who has been rotting on the pine for most of the first 10 games, Jimmer made an impact. In 14 minutes, Jimmer dished out three assists and his lone three points came on a 25-foot 3-pointer that cut the Suns’ lead to two points with 7:42 remaining in the game. Malone was non-committal on whether Jimmer or Marcus Thornton would get the reserve minutes behind McLemore when these two teams match-up tomorrow. Thornton received the dreaded DNP-CD tonight.
  • Greivis Vasquez split the minutes down the middle with Thomas, finishing with 11 points and six assists in 24 minutes. Vasquez may have started the game, but Thomas played all 12 minutes in the deciding fourth quarter.
  • The battle for minutes at power forward looks like it might continue for a while. Jason Thompson started and played 25 minutes. He scored eight points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out two assists. Patrick Patterson also played 25 minutes, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds. It was a solid night for the duo, especially when you consider the strong rebounding numbers from Cousins, Mbah a Moute and Outlaw.
  • Stat of the Night: The Kings out -rebounded the Suns by a final tally of 48-31.

Quote of the Game

Cousins on how satisfying tonight’s win was:

“It was very satisfying and we’re taking steps forward. Early in the season if we got down, we just kind of stayed down. The team made a run, we pounded down, we stopped the bleeding, then we made our run and then we kept making our runs. That’s what it takes to win games.”

Video shot and edited by Tobin Halsey.

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