Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on Jan. 19, 2012
The Kings returned home after a tough five-game road trip to beat the Indiana Pacers 92-88 in a hard-fought battle at Power Balance Pavilion Wednesday night.
“I don’t know how, but somehow this group found a way,” Kings head coach Keith Smart said. “I don’t know how we did it, but this group has some resilience. They fought, they found a lineup that got us back into the game, and they closed it out. And that’s what I’m trying to get us to become: a team on any given night.”
On their eventful road trip, the Kings went 1-4 while earning their first road win, along with setting a new franchise record with only 23 points of the first half in a 99-60 rout by the Dallas Mavericks.
Sacramento came into Wednesday night with a 5-9 record, much due to their problem of making shots on the floor, and the league-worst shooting percentage at just 39.6 percent.
Despite their shooting woes continuing and only shooting 30.1 percent from the field against the Pacers, the Kings found a way to come back from a 14-point deficit going into the fourth quarter and come out with the victory.
Much of the win can be attributed to the zone defense that Smart turned to in the fourth, smothering the Pacers and only allowing eight points to be scored in the entire quarter.
“Our staff did a good job this morning in our meeting and saw that we could possibly play a zone,” Smart said after the game. “We were able to pull it out and get in the zone. The zone kind of kept them from posting our guys up, and it kept them from penetrating. It kept them on the perimeter. That’s what turned the game around.”
After trailing 80-66 after three quarters, the Kings eventually took an 88-87 lead when forward Francisco Garcia made two free throws with a little over two minutes remaining in the game.
Up by three at 90-87 with 5.6 seconds left to play, Smart decided to intentionally foul Pacers forward Danny Granger. Granger was called for a free throw violation while trying to intentionally miss the second attempt to get the ball back after making the first.
Garcia then made two free throws to seal the four-point victory for the Kings, ending their three-game losing streak.
Garcia and the rest of the Kings bench played a huge role in the victory, outscoring the Pacers bench 39-20. Garcia led the bench with 16 points, including 10 in the final quarter while rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas once again provided a spark while playing 20 minutes off the bench.
“They respect me. That’s the first and foremost,” Thomas said. “They respect me on and off the court. They know what I can bring, and I can’t let them down when I get in and get significant minutes.”
Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins recognizes the play of Thomas and understands the spark he provides the team every time he enters the game.
“Isaiah has been big for us all season,” Cousins said. “The more he plays, the more big plays he provides us.”
Thomas finished with eight points, one rebound, one assist and two steals. Five of Thomas’ eight points came in the fourth quarter.
Smart made a change in the starting roster, giving fourth-year forward Jason Thompson the nod instead of J.J. Hickson and was rewarded with Thompson’s hustle that provided nine points, nine rebounds and one assist in the first half. Thompson was only able to add one rebound to his numbers in the second half due to limited minutes.
“I’ve been very pleased with him,” Smart said of Thompson. “I’ve given him certain dynamic rules to follow, and he has been very, very good with what he’s doing, very patient. He’s being decisive. If he doesn’t have a move, he gets rid of the basketball and gets into the next play.”
Cousins once again dominated the boards, finishing with 13 points, 19 rebounds and two assists. En route to tying his career-high 19 rebounds, Cousins set a new franchise record for most offensive rebounds in a half with 10 hauled in during the first half.
“Once I’m zoned in, I’m going after everything,” Cousins said. “I’m not out there counting. I’m just trying to get everything that comes my way.”
In total, the Kings hauled in 30 offensive rebounds to go along with their 23 defensive rebounds. The Kings also made it to the free throw line 41 times but only made 68 percent from the line.
The Kings head back on the road for a three-game road trip starting with the San Antonio Spurs on Friday. The team will return home to take on the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.