Rich Pedroncelli Associated Press The Kings' DeMarcus Cousins (15) maneuvers against the Warriors' Carl Landry. Cousins contributed 23 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

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Thornton sparks Kings' win

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 - 12:09 am

Marcus Thornton was the Kings' leading scorer last season. He also was perhaps their best shooter in pressure situations.

What happened to Thornton after he averaged a career-high 18.7 points? He became the Kings' sixth man.

Accepting a reserve role isn't what most leading scorers are asked to do after a breakout season. But Thornton has done it, and he has thrived.

Thornton and his fellow reserves keyed a first-half run Monday night and helped the Kings hold on for their first win of the season, 94-92 over the Warriors, in their home opener at Sleep Train Arena.

Thornton finished with 16 points and hasn't scored fewer than 15 as a reserve in four games.

Kings coach Keith Smart said it wasn't the best meeting when he told Thornton he didn't plan to start him. Thornton, however, has bought in.

"(Smart) felt like it was the best thing for the team," Thornton said. "We sat there and talked about it. I think it is. If he's with it, I'm with it."

The bench scored 30 of the Kings' 52 points in the first half. Thornton had 14 in the first half.

Smart said bringing Thornton off the bench allows him to feature the fourth-year guard more on offense.

"When you manage and master something in the NBA, you can do it no matter when you play if your mind allows you to," Smart said.

But the bench isn't just about Thornton. The reserves provided 45 points and eight of the Kings' 13 assists Monday.

In the fourth quarter, Thornton and fellow reserves Aaron Brooks and Chuck Hayes helped close the game.

Brooks, who scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, who also could start but has accepted his role.

"I'm cool," Brooks said of not starting. "I just want to be able to get in and do my job the way I'm supposed to do it."

As the Warriors trimmed the Kings' lead from 11 to one, they couldn't overtake Sacramento partly because of Brooks' clutch shots.

"Some of the shots you see him take, you're like, 'What is that?' But he practices those shots," Smart said. "All those flip shots, he works on those things, so he's got a good handle on that. He's a late-game guy. He understands how to play. He's not rattled."

Hayes said the key to the second unit is that its members play to each other's strengths. No one tries to do more than he's supposed to.

"We all feed off each other," Hayes said. "So far, we're doing what we're supposed to do."

Smart believes his reserves will be important all season, especially since he doesn't want a short rotation.

"If our first unit can keep the games close, I think our bench can be one of the best ones in the league," Smart said.

Center DeMarcus Cousins gave the Kings (1-3) the kind of efficient performance they need from him. After taking 27 shots and making only nine against Indiana on Saturday, he looked much better on offense against the Warriors.

Cousins made 10 of 16 shots and finished with 23 points. He also grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds as the Kings outrebounded an opponent (43-38) for the first time this season.

Guard Klay Thompson led the Warriors (2-2) with 22 points, but he missed a shot with 4.8 seconds to play and his team behind 93-92.

"If our first unit can keep the games close, I think our bench can be one of the best ones in the league."

KEITH SMART, Kings coach

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