Thorton leads Kings past T-Wolves 115-99

Tyreke Evans’ absence did not seem to fade the Sacramento Kings as they defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 115-99 Sunday at Power Balance Pavilion.

Sacramento’s Marcus Thornton stepped up and had another big game, scoring a game-high 24 points with four assists, four steals and five rebounds.

This was Thornton’s second big game in the row after Evans sprained his left ankle in Wednesday’s 124-114 loss against Detroit. Thornton said the defense has been the key to victory during the last two games, especially against Minnesota forward Kevin Love.

“We did a great job on stopping Kevin Love, making it difficult for him,” the 6-foot-4 shooting guard said. “Every shot was a difficult shot for him, not letting him get into the groove.”

Minnesota got an early lead on Sacramento and led 31-28 at the end of the first quarter. The score was tied at 57 by halftime, but the Kings pulled away in the second half in a similar fashion as they did against Boston on Friday.

Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas also provided some spark by scoring 18 points, including four three-pointers. He said controlling Minnesota on defense helped hold the Timberwolves to just 42 points in the second half to the Kings’ 58.

“The second half we kind of controlled them,” he said. “We controlled them on the defensive end, and that’s what we wanted to do because we know we can score with the best of them. Once we start getting defensive stops and start getting on transition, we’re a hard team to beat.”

The game was full of big plays and dunks. The most talked about dunk of the game was Donte Greene’s backward dunk off Kings point guard Jimmer Fredette’s missed three-pointer. There was much talk that his dunk should be on ESPN’s top 10 list of great plays.

Kings rookie forward Tyler Honeycutt dunked over Minnesota forward Michael Beasley after coming off the bench in the fourth quarter.

“Tyler’s dunk is just as great (as Donte’s),” Thornton said. “A guy that hadn’t played all three quarters to come in and dunk the ball on Michael Beasley, that was crazy.”

Kings coach Keith Smart said after the game that the main focus after a lack of defense in the first quarter was to simply win the next three quarters of the game.

“I thought our guys did a great job,” he said. “These guys are a unique group. They’re out there showing us that the potential is there. Now we just got to keep growing it, keep growing it, and eventually it will be the right thing for us to do.”

Both Minnesota and Sacramento shot well on the free-throw line. Minnesota was a perfect 17-for-17 while the Kings were 19-for-21. When asked how the players have been improving on their free throws, Smart’s answer was simple and practical.

“I left the free-throw shooting alone because I think the more attention you bring to it, the worse it gets,” he said. “So we stopped emphasizing shooting free throws and let them be pros and go in there and shoot their free throws on their own.”

Sacramento will host the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday and then end its nine-game home stand against the Utah Jazz. The Kings now have a 16-29 record and are 12-9 at Power Balance.

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