Photo by Darren Hall
Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on Dec. 24, 2012
The Sacramento Kings bench came up big in the Kings 108-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Sleep Train Arena on Sunday night, Dec. 23.
With big man DeMarcus Cousins out, due to a team suspension, and guard Tyreke Evans still out with a knee injury, the bench scored 43 of the team’s points. The bench needs to have productive nights like this in order to keep winning.
The team was able to use solid ball movement all night in order to find the open man, something that the team has struggled with all season. Sacramento had a season-high 31 assists on this night.
“The number one thing was 31 assists, that tells the story right there,” Kings head coach Keith Smart said after the game. “Obviously making shots, but 31 assists for this group after everything we’ve been through the last couple of days, for them to pull together.”
In fact, it was the bench that got the Kings back into the game, after quickly falling into a 10-point deficit early in the second quarter. But it was the bench that went on a 16-0 run that gave the Kings the lead.
Former Trail Blazer Travis Outlaw was a big factor in the game, as he scored 15 points in just 16 points against his old team, 13 of which came in the second quarter when the Kings needed it most.
"I want to do well every night," Outlaw said. "I mean, it's nice going against your former team and playing well. You just got to be thankful for the opportunity you get and make the best of it and hope it leads to more.”
Smart joked after the game that Outlaw must hold a grudge against Portland since he always seems to produce against them.
“They must’ve done him real wrong,” Smart said while smiling. “They must’ve did him very bad in Portland. Obviously that young man is another guy on our team that works every day, doesn’t complain.”
The Kings need the same kind of production from their bench every night in order to keep obtaining wins.
The backcourt pairing of Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas has been clicking well as of late. Smart will need to make sure he finds a way to get the pair in the game at the same time, even when he gets bodies like Evans and Francisco Garcia back from injury.
Getting Fredette on the floor with Thomas gives the team an added ability to spread the floor with either guard, while having a big man in Chuck Hayes that has solid passing capabilities.
“It’s just all guys that can handle the basketball, pass it, shoot the ball, spread the floor, and we try to get up and down in transition as much as we can,” Fredette said. “We’ve been working really well together and that’s our jobs right now, to come off and give our team a lift.”
Should Smart decide to put Marcus Thornton back on the bench when Evans returns, the bench will have plenty of capable scorers; it’s just a matter of execution.
Players will always want to be in the starting lineup, but it’s more important to stick together as a team and understand everybody’s role until the time comes. The team needs to be urging each other on, no matter who is on the floor.
“It felt great, everybody was into the game, cheering for one another, and that’s what we need,” Thornton said following the game.