Once again, the Sacramento Kings were within reach of victory, but unable to capitalize. They couldn’t overcome an Indiana Pacers’ fourth quarter lead and lost 97-92 at Sleep Train Arena on Friday. The defeat drops them to 4-11 on the season and 4-6 at home. They played without star guard Tyreke Evans for the first time this year, who sat out tonight’s game with a bruised left knee.
Notes and Analysis
- David West played out of his mind tonight for the Pacers. The veteran forward finished the game with 31 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in the win. The last time these two teams matched-up, West scored 18 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, but he shot only 7-for-21 from the field. Tonight he was much more efficient, hitting on 13 of his 20 shot attempts.
- Tyreke Evans has a bruised left knee and missed tonight’s game. Marcus Thornton started in his place and struggled to find his groove early. Thornton finished with 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting, but he missed a long three in the closing seconds that could have tied the game. Kudos to Thornton tonight for standing in and taking his lumps from members of the media. Plenty of his teammates were already out of the locker room and headed for the team bus before it was question time.
- DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings in both scoring and rebounding, but you won’t find tonight’s box score framed in his house. Cousins finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds, but shot only 5-for-17 from the field. Everything was forced.
- Jimmer Fredette and not Isaiah Thomas got the call tonight for coach Smart off the Kings bench. He came out firing, finishing with 12 points and three assists in 18 minutes of action. Jimmer scored on a variety of spin moves and floaters, hitting on five of his ten shot attempts.
- There was a Francisco Garcia sighting tonight at Sleep Train Arena. The veteran wing hasn’t played much this season, but he was very good while filling in some of Evans’ minutes. Cisco finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and played spirited defense in his 15 minutes of action.
- Stat of the Night: The Sacramento Kings are 11-28 in games that Evans’ misses due to injury over the last three plus seasons.
Three answers to three questions pondered
1. If the game is close, can the Kings execute effectively in crunch time?
With three minutes left in the final frame, the Kings were within striking distance, trailing the Pacers 88-84. That margin would remain the same until it was trimmed to a 3-point deficit following a missed free throw by George Hill with 11 seconds left. The final play called was an isolation set for Marcus Thornton, who ended up taking and missing the last shot. The bigger story tonight was the lineup decisions made by Keith Smart. Chuck Hayes, who played heavy minutes and limited David West in the Kings’ last game against the Pacers, played just 16 minutes of action. Jimmer Fredette was yanked twice by Smart, first – before halftime – and second – late in the fourth quarter, just as he was hitting his stride.
2. Can the Kings’ defense keep the Pacers’ offense from having a breakout game?
The Pacers’ misgivings on offense continued tonight. The Kings limited Indiana to 43.5 percent shooting from the field and 34.6 percent from 3-point land. But the Kings’ offense struggled as well. Indiana held Sacramento to 42.7 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from 3-point territory. Missing Tyreke Evans, who had been averaging better than 20 points a game really hurt the Kings’ offense tonight.
3. Will we see Tyreke Evans play more than 35 minutes this evening?
In a surprise move, Evans did not play in tonight’s game due to a bruised left knee. He apparently suffered the injury in Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, however he did practice the ensuing day. Marcus Thornton told reporters after the game he was informed at practice today that he would start. In Evans’ place, the 25-year-old guard put together a lukewarm performance, scoring double figures (15 points) on 5-of-11 shooting. Evans’ absence cleared the way for Francisco Garcia, who played a solid game off the bench. The player who seemed to benefit most from Evans’ absence was Jimmer Fredette, who had seen a dip in his shooting percentages over the last seven games, but came out of his haze tonight.
– Jonathan Santiago
Quotes of the Game
Keith Smart‘s opening comments:
Well, we obviously didn’t get what we needed to get tonight. Two guys played very well, ones that have been playing well for their team – David West and George Hill. They made big plays at the start of the game. We were obviously missing a big piece – Tyreke Evans – and everything that he brings to the game. We still had to play the game and we just didn’t have what I thought we would, which was a high-energy level. We had great support from our fans here, but we didn’t get out of the gate with a great effort. This team wanted to play a low-scoring game, so we had to force the tempo, but we didn’t do that until late in the game.
Francisco Garcia on getting some playing time tonight:
It feels good. It felt good to be out there with my teammates. We practice hard every day and they’ve got confidence in me. I just went out there and played hard, playing our game.
Garcia on how the team has reacted to losing close games:
We’re just staying focused ,trying to get better every day. It’s tough – we’ve only won four games this year, so we’ve just got to keep getting better and keep going as a team.
David West on being a tough cover:
I only shoot shots that I practice. I learned that a long time ago. Only take shots in the game that I work on (and) practice. I’m just comfortable with the shots that I take and just try and continue to be steady.