Fed up and frustrated at the lack of effort and energy, Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone shook up his lineup, hoping to find some kind of spark.
The move turned out to be exactly what his team needed.
Marcus Thornton scored a season-high 24 points after losing his starting spot to rookie Ben McLemore, and the Kings snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the Brooklyn Nets 107-86 on Wednesday night.
”Marcus, I said to him after the game, `Maybe I should’ve put you on the bench sooner,’ ” Malone said.
Greivis Vasquez had 17 points and 12 assists, and Isaiah Thomas added 19 points, six assists and six rebounds to help the Kings rout Brooklyn. Sacramento led by 18 points in the second quarter and 23 late in the third before holding off a brief rally in the fourth.
The Kings shot 43.6 percent and committed only seven turnovers. They also held the Nets to 37.8 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers.
”If I could’ve written a script for tonight,” Malone said, ”it would’ve played out just like it played out.”
Nothing has gone according to plan for the Nets this season.
After acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston, the pair’s championship pedigree has yet to blend in Brooklyn. The Nets have lost three straight to drop to 2-5 this season, including 0-4 on the road, with the latest performance perhaps the most perplexing.
”It’s unacceptable,” first-year Nets coach Jason Kidd said. ”We don’t score, we hang our heads and then they score on the other end.”
The Nets never sustained any kind of rhythm, even after DeMarcus Cousins picked up his fourth foul and was taken out early in the third quarter. They played slow and looked like aging veterans — especially against Sacramento’s young and athletic rotation — and were often embarrassed on both ends.
Brook Lopez had 16 points and nine rebounds, and Deron Williams finished with 13 points and seven assists as the Nets lost their third straight game. Brooklyn plays at Phoenix on Friday night before wrapping up the three-game road trip at the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
”I hope this was a wakeup call to start the trip,” said Pierce, who had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Sacramento, a place where most NBA fans are still just happy to have a team after the Kings nearly moved to Seattle in May, finally showed some promise on the court for the first time since winning its season opener against Denver.
McLemore, the seventh overall pick out of Kansas, made his first start along with Jason Thompson. Thornton and Patrick Patterson, who had eight points and a season-high 10 rebounds, moved to the bench as part of a revamped rotation Malone said he will use again Friday against Detroit.
The announced crowd of 15,122 roared when McLemore finished an alley-oop from Vasquez on a fast break in the first quarter, though the rookie struggled for most of the game. McLemore finished with two points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Thornton scored 13 points in the second quarter, including three 3-pointers, and tossed a lob that Cousins dunked with one hand to give the Kings a 43-25 lead.
”I kept pounding in my head, `Just go out there and play and relax,”’ said Thornton, who finished 10 of 19 from the floor, adding four rebounds and two assists. ”Shots started falling, and things happened.”
The Nets answered with 11 straight points, with Williams keying the spurt despite favoring his left ankle for a minute after slipping on teammate Andray Blatche. Cousins also was called for a technical foul — his second this season — to help Brooklyn’s run after the Sacramento center shouted at official Joey Crawford.
Sacramento closed the half leading 52-40 before blowing away Brooklyn after the break. Vasquez fed Patterson for a layup that put the Kings up 80-57 with 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Williams’ floater sliced Sacramento’s lead to 84-72 early in the fourth. Then Jason Terry was called for a foul and a technical foul after elbowing Vasquez, part of a 16-8 run that gave the Kings a 100-80 lead.
”We’re not in a comfort zone or anything like that,” Vasquez said. ”We have to come back and be professional about this and build from this win.”
NOTES: The Kings had lost the last three games against the Nets. . . . Nets F Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) is not traveling with the team during its three-game road trip. . . . Garnett played his 1,330th career game, passing Moses Malone for 10th place in NBA history.