All eyes were on Ben McLemore, who started his first career game for the Sacramento Kings. But it was Marcus Thornton, the man who McLemore supplanted in the starting lineup, that went on to steal the show.
Thornton came off the bench to score 13 of his 24 points in the second quarter as the Kings went on to rout the Brooklyn Nets, 107-86, at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday night.
“Tonight, I kept pounding in my head ‘Just go out there and play and relax’,” Thornton told reporters in the locker room after the game. “And shots started falling and things happen. Guess it went my way tonight.”
Thornton wasn’t the only player to respond well to the changes made to the Kings’ starting lineup. Greivis Vasquez had his best game this season, recording his first double-double as King with 17 points and a season-high 12 assists.
“Tonight, I actually felt like I was getting in a rhythm,” Vasquez said after Wednesday’s win. “With the plays, I was running into a good flow. I felt pretty good. Slowly, I’m feeling better. I had a rough start. Hopefully, I just continue to feel great physically. Tonight, I played with a great amount of confidence. I just went out there and had fun.”
Jason Thompson, who started in place of Patrick Patterson, also had a strong outing for Sacramento, particularly in the rebounding department. The veteran forward grabbed 11 boards in his first start of the season.
Much to head coach Michael Malone’s delight, the Kings finally sustained a consistent level of effort throughout the entire game. They applied much of that energy on the defensive end as they held the Nets to an abysmal 37.8 percent shooting from the field.
“It was great,” Malone said of the overall effort from the Kings Wednesday evening. “It was our closest game to a 48-minute effort and that’s who we have to be every night.”
The win breaks a five-game losing streak for the Kings, who improve to 2-5 on the season. They have Thursday off before returning to the court Friday night at home against the Detroit Pistons.
Notes and Analysis
- There was a Marcus Thornton sighting. After a rough start to the season, the veteran shooting guard lost his starting job to rookie Ben McLemore this week, but he didn’t let that get him down. Thornton responded with a huge 24 point, four rebound night in 34 minutes of action.
- McLemore got the start, but it may have been too-much-too-soon for the 20-year-old rookie. He finished with just two points on 1-for-8 shooting, giving way to a red hot night from Thornton. McLemore has all the upside in the world, but tonight seemed overwhelming.
- Greivis Vasquez finally had a breakout game, scoring 17 points and handing out 12 assists in the win. Coach Malone let Vasquez get comfortable in the offense by running one pick-and-roll after another. Vasquez was a maestro, dealing out passes to Jason Thompson for top of the key jumpers and Patrick Patterson for open dunks in the lane. Maybe his struggles were due to just a bad mix in the starting lineup.
- It doesn’t matter how good Vasquez is, Isaiah Thomas is still on his heels. Thomas quietly scored 19 points, dished out six assists and grabbed six rebounds in 26 minutes. He may not be a pure passer like Vasquez, but he is playing incredible basketball right now.
- DeMarcus Cousins had an off-night, but it had more to do with referee Joey Crawford than anything else. The big fella finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in just 22 minutes before fouling out with 3:59 remaining in the fourth. The ticky-tack personals killed him tonight, but it was nice to see him lead the team with three blocks and he added at least one offensive foul on the Nets.
- Once again, Jason Thompson has prevailed over a player brought in to steal his job. It’s only one game, but the longest-tenured King was named the starter for the foreseeable future and he responded with a very nice game. Thompson scored nine points and led Sacramento with 11 rebounds in the win. He was also tasked with guarding center Brook Lopez for much of his 26 minutes on the floor.
- Patterson still can’t find the range on his jumper, missing all three of his 3-point attempts on the night. But like Malone keeps preaching, when the jumper wasn’t falling, Patterson tried something else. The result was a high-flying display off the Kings bench. Patterson finished with eight points and 10 rebounds, bringing the Kings power forward combo to a combined 18 points and 21 rebounds on the evening.
- Stat of the Night: The Kings finished the night with 26 assists and only seven total turnovers on the night.
Quote of the Game
Vasquez on the Kings’ defense.
“I thought we played disciplined. That’s one thing about this team – when we play disciplined, when we practice good habits, I think that the change in culture is going to happen. We just can’t be undisciplined; we just can’t be out there for ourselves, for one specific player. We’ve just got to be there for each other and understand this is a team effort – it’s not one guy, it’s not two guys, it’s 13 guys that are going to help this team, the Sacramento Kings, win games. We will have a bad night and somebody’s got to step up and be there for each other, support and understand that we’re here together. We see each other more than we see our families. So I’m happy that we won but we’ve still got a lot to prove.”
Video shot and edited by Tobin Halsey.