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Twelve thousand plus in attendance for a preseason game told you that Kings head honcho Paul Westphal was right.
“It’s nice to have basketball back in this building, isn’t it?,” Westphal started his post game press conference.
It sure was!
A good crowd for the only home preseason game this season saw the Sacramento Kings tighten up the defense in the final minutes of the game and hold on to beat the Golden State Warriors 95-91 at Power Balance Pavilion on Tuesday evening.
Leading the way for the Kings was Marcus Thornton who had 21 points, seven boards and four assists and J.J. Hickson who scored 19 points and had nine rebounds.
Tyreke Evans scored the first basket of the new season on the home court with a net-ripping three to give the Kings an early 3-2 lead.
Tyler Honeycutt, the UCLA product that was one of the Kings second round picks, was hustling all over the court and making the Warriors take tougher shots in his first start as a King. Honeycutt got the start because John Salmons, the projected starter at small forward, is still nursing a thigh contusion.
Both teams love to run. In the first quarter alone, eight of the Warriors 19 points came off of the break.
David Lee was a thorn in the Kings side as the Warriors big man either finished with a dunk on the break or was hacked and sent to the line where he made four of his first five from the stripe. Lee finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds.
Thornton hit a couple of early long balls and a tough layup with two guys draped on him that helped give the Kings the lead after one quarter, 23-19.
With less than a minute to go in the first half, Warrior stud Stephen Curry rolled his ankle while trying to guard Jimmer Fredette. Fredette put a good move on the Warriors point guard and Curry couldn’t keep up and tweaked the same ankle that gave him trouble a good portion of last season. Curry would not return.
One highlight that Kings fans probably didn’t see coming was the two three-point bombs that newly acquired Travis Outlaw made in the second quarter. Outlaw, who is coming off of hand surgery, had a solid game considering he’s only attended a couple of Kings’ practices.
Another was watching Kings guard Isaiah Thomas sprint to the basket, beat two Warriors to the hoop and score on a sweet reverse lay in as the clock expired in the first half.
The second quarter was more of the same as the Kings would outscore the Warriors again by four points and lead at the half by eight, 49-41.
Sloppy play saw the Kings give away their eight point halftime lead in the third quarter. The Kings had 11 turnovers in the third, led by DeMarcus Cousins’ five giveaways.
Cousins has missed some practice time and it showed.
But when it really mattered, Cousins came through.
The second-year big man had a couple of steals and a crucial block in the last minute of the game that made a huge difference.
Cousins knew it was time to contribute in a different way.
“I’m really just trying to find a rhythm, it’s my first game back,” said Cousins after the game. “A tough game for me offensively, so I tried to do some key things on the defensive end to help the team win.”
Evans was another big reason the Kings held off the pesky Warriors. He had 10 points in the final period and, in general, just took over the game.
“It started with defense,” said Evans. I knew they were going to try and go to Monte (Ellis) a lot, so I took on the challenge and tried to make him take tough shots. I think that’s what we have to do to be a good team. We got to play good defense.”
With 27.1 seconds left, Thornton hit a three that blew the roof off of PBP and sealed the game for the Kings.
J.J. Hickson, who also hit seven of nine free throws, said he’s ready to do whatever the Kings need him to do. Whether it’s play the four or the five position, he can handle it.
“With me, I’m the type of player that is going to do whatever it takes to win,” said Hickson. “I’m not complaining what position I play, as long as we get it done. I don’t care who does what, as long as we get better individually and as a team, then that’s all we can ask for.”
KINGS NOTES: All three rookies scored in their home debut . . . Honeycutt had six, Fredette had 12 to accompany three boards and four assists and Thomas had eight points . . . Cousins had 10 boards and nine turnovers, mostly in that horrible third quarter . . . Francisco Garcia, Donte Greene and Hassan Whiteside all could have played but did not due to coach’s decision . . . The home opener is Monday against bitter rivals the Los Angeles Lakers