Magic succumb to Kings’ bench in loss
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Although Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas are rarely on the floor at the same time, the two reserve guards were paired in the fourth quarter Friday night and both played key roles in the Sacramento Kings’ victory.
DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Thomas also scored 17 points and Fredette added 15 to help the Kings beat the Orlando Magic 91-82.
Fredette and Thomas have been typically vying this season for the same minutes. But trailing by two points entering the fourth, Kings coach put Fredette and Thomas in the backcourt with three other reserves — rookie Thomas Robinson, Chuck Hayes, and a third guard, Marcus Thornton.
Sacramento outscored Orlando 29-18 in the fourth. It didn’t help that the Magic shot 7 of 24 in the final quarter and were outhustled by the Kings, who outrebounded Orlando 17-9.
“We played small ball and came to life,” Smart said.
After squandering an 11-point lead in the third quarter, the Kings regrouped in the fourth behind the strong play of their backups. Led by Thomas and Fredette, who both scored 11 points in the period, the reserves played for much of the final quarter and produced a 15-2 run that propelled Sacramento to consecutive wins for the second time this season.
A heralded college player at BYU, Fredette has played well off the bench in his second season. Against Orlando, he enjoyed a perfect fourth quarter, connecting on all three field-goal attempts and making four straight free throws in the game’s final 22 seconds.
“It’s a great dynamic (playing with Thomas). I think it’s two guys that can shoot the ball, but also make plays for other people and can get into the lane and penetrate,” Fredette said. “I was happy to go in there with him and pull out a win.”
Thomas was a starter the second half of last season when he blossomed as a rookie. But playing time has been tough to get since he lost the starting job to Aaron Brooks after eight games this season. In two of the previous four games Thomas played a combined eight minutes.
Against Orlando, Thomas entered the game in the first quarter and wound up playing nearly 28 minutes. In the fourth quarter, Thomas hit a pair of jumpers and 7 of 8 free throws. He also finished with five rebounds and four assists.
“We were on the court a few tiimes last year and were successful,” Thomas said. “He was aggressive, I was aggressive, and we fed off each other. We wanted to bring a different pace to the game.”
Jason Thompson added 12 points and Brooks had 11 for the Kings, who are 5-0 at home when leading at halftime.
Glen Davis had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando, but fouled out in the final 36 seconds.
Arron Afflalo had 18 points and Jameer Nelson scored 17 for the Magic, who have lost two straight and five of seven. Andrew Nicholson added 14 points.
“They made some plays in the fourth quarter,” Davis said. “Fredette made some good moves and Isaiah was tough. He really sealed the game the way he played. Those are two tough little guards.”
The Kings were without starting guard Tyreke Evans, who didn’t play for the third time in four games with a sore right knee. Evans was a critical factor in the Kings’ victory Wednesday over Toronto, making two 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter and scoring 23 points. Evans is questionable for Saturday’s game in Portland.
A fastbreak layup by Afflalo cut the Sacramento lead to 81-78 with just under 3 minutes left. The Kings’ final 10 points were free throws, including a pair by Cousins that stretched their cushion to 87-78 with 28 seconds remaining.
Although his starters rallied the Kings late in the third quarter, Smart went with the small lineup in the fourth and stuck with it almost throughout. Fredette, Thomas and Robinson played all 12 minutes in the final quarter.
“Every game has a different personality,” Smart said. “The lineup that Orlando used allowed me to do that rotation tonight. They didn’t look to post up their guards. In tomorrow’s game, Portland will post up their twos and threes, so there may not be a situation like that.”
The Kings used a 15-2 run to take a nine-point lead, but Orlando responded on Davis’ three-point play and a 3-pointer from Nelson to trim it to 79-76 with 3:40 left.
After losing the lead in the third quarter, the Kings regained it in the fourth behind the play of five reserves. Fredette connected on a corner 3 off a fast break for a 69-68 advantage at the 8:28 mark. A jumper by Fredette a short time later capped seven consecutive points for the Kings, who took a 73-68 lead.
Nelson had 10 points and Afflalo scored nine in the third period when the Magic shook off a poor first half and outscored the Kings 30-16. Nelson made all four third-quarter shots, including a pair of 3s.
“I felt pretty decent going into the fourth,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Even though we got the lead we still missed some shots, a few bunnies at the rim. We had some good looks down the stretch. It doesn’t always boil down to the shots at the end of the game. There were a lot of shots throughout the course of the game that didn’t go in.”
Trailing 54-43 in the third, the Magic finally got going offensively, scoring 16 straight points. Afflalo scored the final five, hitting two free throws and a 3 that put Orlando in front 59-54 with 4:28 left in the quarter.
The Kings benefited in the first half from the inside play of Thompson and Cousins. Thompson had 10 points and six rebounds, while Cousins had nine points and eight rebounds in leading the Kings to a 46-34 halftime lead. Brooks also scored nine points for Sacramento.
Davis scored 10 first-half points for the Magic, who shot 35 percent. They were outrebounded 27-18 and committed nine turnovers.
NOTES: Francisco Garcia made his first start of the season in place of Evans. Garcia had played in only seven of the Kings’ previous 17 games this season. … Orlando missed all five of its 3-point attempts in the first half. … Sacramento shot 32 percent in the third quarter and was outrebounded 13-7. … Orlando concludes its five-game West Coast trip Sunday in Portland, while the Kings play five of the next six on the road, starting Saturday in Portland.