Kings Vs. Wizards Final Score: Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton Torch Washington

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on February 21, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

If I told you that Tyreke Evans sat for most of the second half and DeMarcus Cousins was out for most of the fourth quarter, you'd probably assume the Washington Wizards won easily. But this being the Wizards, that wasn't the case. With Evans and Cousins out of the game, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton torched the Wizards late, leading the Sacramento Kings to a 115-107 victory.

There have been plenty of depressing stretches in the Wizards' season, but that fourth quarter has to go way up there. Thomas went right at John Wall and killed him, using a series of herky-jerky moves to get by him on the initial defense and beat the Wizards' help defenders. Meanwhile, Wall, Jordan Crawford and Nick Young engaged in their own version of hero ball, sabotaging late possessions with isolations that went nowhere. The late-game offensive contrast between the two teams was striking, and that's the most frustrating thing of all. There's no reason why the Kings should be executing better than the Wizards in the fourth quarter, but that's exactly what happened.

Chronological notes below the jump.
  • Really interesting matchups early on. The Wizards had Chris Singleton on Marcus Thornton early on, not Tyreke Evans. Instead, Nick Young guarded Evans. I'm not entirely sure why Randy Wittman did that, but there are tons of theories. Perhaps Wittman wanted to keep Singleton's confidence high having him guard a lesser player. Perhaps Wittman was worried that Evans would catch Singleton leaning, which has been a problem for him when he guards quicker perimeter players.
  • Marcus Thornton really struggled finding Nick Young early on in this game, especially in transition. Young got a three and a one-dribble pull-up out of it.
  • Evans is one of those guys that you want shooting perimeter shots. On the season, he's shooting 26 percent from 16-23 feet and 61 percent at the rim. Naturally, the Wizards tried fighting over the screen on him instead of ducking under and making him shoot from the outside.
  • The Kings are really good at pushing the ball off missed shots, so the Wizards need to be disciplined in their transition defense. This has been a problem before and it was again early on in this game.
  • On the other hand, the Kings were so, so bad at defending the corner three in transition. Young and Roger Mason killed them on that play.
  • Good minutes for Mason in that first quarter. He has to slow down when he shoots threes. When he does, he can help. Too often, he plays way too fast. Tonight, he was slow on his first three-point attempt, hit the shot, then played at a much better pace.
  • Wittman went to a three-guard lineup for most of the end of the first/beginning of the second quarter, and it worked tremendously. The Wizards were rebounding, and that's key with that lineup, because once the rebound is secured, the Wizards have three players that can advance the ball in transition. All three (four, technically, since Shelvin Mack and Wall were both in at different points) were very quick at getting the ball up the court and creating opportunities in transition. As long as your big men can rebound, going small is a huge bonanza.
  • Kevin Seraphin gave some really good minutes. If he can just focus on being active and aggressive, he'll be more successful. He's too passive a lot of the time, and that's an issue. Just keep battling on the glass and finishing strong. No more weak stuff.
  • Sacramento's defense is so, so bad. The theory of going zone is great, so long as you actually guard Young at the three-point line.
  • All these minutes for Jimmer Fredette, and he just got lit up. Everything you could do wrong as a defender, he did. Credit Jordan Crawford and the rest of the team for recognizing this and going right at him. I actually like Crawford in the post if he works for easy shots instead of settling for fadeaways. With a live dribble, facing up from 16 feet -- it could work in spots, though the new rules make it tougher. In the spirt of making his role a little more defined, worth trying.
  • Nice defense, DeMarcus Cousins.
  • Wall has to stop trying for highlight blocks in transition. Cut the guy off and make him give it up. This is the NBA. You're not going to swat people that way.
  • The Wizards were saved from a worse first-half finish by the Kings' own ineptitude. Wall started going for highlight plays and woofing with the Kings, which was not wise finishing a half. Luckily, the Kings were nearly as bad, with Cousins giving up on a ton of plays and playing really lethargically. I'm not sure what was up with him in this game. It certainly doesn't square with what he's done recently. Maybe he got tired because of the pace of the game.
  • The start of the third quarter was pretty sloppy, to say the least.
  • I was very amused by McGee's goaltend into the eighth row, but I also am not his coach. I can see why Wittman was pretty upset at that. Now, on the other hand, I can absolutely see why McGee was angry at Evans for shoving him in midair. That was a dirty play.
  • The Wizards really struggled defending the Kings' shooting guards moving without the ball early in the third quarter. Francisco Garcia and Marcus Thornton navigated defenders through a series of off-ball screens, L-cuts, flares and the like, getting open shots without a hand in their faces. You have to explode through the screen to nullify its impact, and the Wizards weren't doing that.
  • Tempo is such a huge thing with this Wizards team because they struggle so much in half-court sets. The Kings' rally came because they controlled tempo and kept this as a half-court game. The Wizards surged back ahead when they got a steal, a stop and two transition three-pointers. This is why rebounding is so important. If the Wizards get stops and rebound, they control tempo. If not, they get killed in a half-court game.
  • Rashard Lewis does the opposite of exploding to the rim. That's what happens when you've played nearly 32,000 regular-season minutes and 2,500 playoff minutes in your career.
  • Isaiah Thomas is legit. Changes speeds well, has underrated playmaking instincts and has perfected a floater to get his shot off against bigger defenders. I'm really not sure how he lasted until the 60th pick in the draft. (For the record, I liked him in college too). Mack has probably exceeded expectations this year, but imagine if the Wizards had Thomas instead of him? Think of all the two-guard opportunities with Thomas and Wall.
  • After a week of playing really good pick and roll defense on the road, McGee returned home and returned to his matador self. When Thomas and Thornton came off pick and rolls, McGee laid back trying for highlight blocks too often. Thomas floated shots over him and Thornton used a head fake to freeze him for an easy layup early in the fourth quarter. McGee has to remember that his value doesn't come from swatting shots, it's meeting guards as they go up and altering shots.
  • Thornton and Thomas killed the Wizards in the early-third and fourth-quarter. Kind of interesting to me how the Kings fared better with Evans on the bench and Garcia spacing the floor as Thomas and Thornton make plays. One thing Keith Smart talked about before the game was that it's much harder to isolate a perimeter player because of the new zone defense rules. It's better to have playmakers and guys who space the floor. Thought about that as I watched Thomas and Thornton kill the Wizards.
  • Up 101-100 after two transition shots, Wall really screwed things up dribbling aimlessly at the top of the key waiting for Seraphin to set the perfect screen. It completely killed the flow of the game and he simply has to know better. It was off a missed shot too, so I don't really know what his excuse was. Keep the ball moving and popping, and good things will happen. Instead, his fadeaway missed, the Kings got the rebound and scored and Crawford launched a horrible shot on the next possession. That's two guards being selfish.
  • Thomas got wherever he wanted against Wall late in the game. That's kind of depressing.
  • The late-game offense was bad - so much dribbling. Each of the three guards took turns trying to be the hero and all failed. Surely there's a more intricate way of getting halfway decent shots for Wall, Crawford or Young. Some of it is trust between the three of them -- they need to play off each other instead of standing while the other one makes a play. Some of it, though, comes down to actually running some legitimate plays. If one guy is handling the ball, why can't Wittman have the Wizards run some weakside motion to free the other? With so many shot-makers, surely Wittman can come up with something better than that.
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