For one game, the Sacramento Kings could pretend that there is no alpha dog battle brewing.
For one game, their roster had a clear pecking order, with one star surrounded by a capable crew of supporters.
For one game, that star was not named Tyreke Evans. He went by the much more unassuming handle of Marcus Thornton.
The league’s reigning Rookie of the Year yielded the spotlight to midseason acquisition Thornton, who exploded for 32 points, including seven in the last 1:20 of regulation to bring the visiting Kings back from a late five-point deficit.
Louis Williams’ 32-foot heave at the buzzer forced overtime, but the other Kings stepped up in the extra period. DeMarcus Cousins scored five points and assisted on two three-pointers as the Kings outscored their hosts 14-11 in OT to pull away.
Evans made a few important plays in the fourth quarter, but watched the overtime from the bench. He appeared in his second game in a row after missing the previous 19 with plantar fasciitis. His stat line was nothing special (2-8 field goals, 5-6 free throws, 10 points), but he played six more minutes than on Friday against Indiana, and appears to be working his way back into game shape.
Today, Evans’ presence did not affect Thornton, but it’s easy to wonder how the two can coexist when both are healthy. Both scorers need the ball in their hands to be effective, and neither has yet proved he can be the focal point of a winning team’s attack.
Some observers have suggested that Thornton’s best long-term fit is as an instant-offense sixth man who closes games when hot. Ideally, he would do so alongside Evans in the fourth quarter, which begs the question of how the two gunners can share the court.
They were paired together in the backcourt for about 19 minutes throughout today’s game, and seemed to find an acceptable balance on offense. Evans mostly played point guard with Thornton sliding to the wing. Most Kings experts doubt that Evans is a full-time floor leader, but when Thornton is this accurate (11-21 field goals, 4-6 three-pointers), it’s easier to give up the ball.
Evans was also an effective distributor in Friday’s win over Indiana, when he piled up eight assists while all five Kings starters scored in double figures.
It’ll be worth watching closely over the last few weeks of the season to see how well this uneasy marriage of players can gel, the better to give Kings fans hope for the team they’ll likely be watching from about 350 miles away in 2011-12.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.