CHARLOTTE, N.C. The Kings began the second quarter Saturday with a 25-20 lead and five reserves in the game.
In less than three minutes, they trailed the Charlotte Bobcats 29-28.
The lineup was Aaron Brooks, Marcus Thornton, Francisco Garcia, Chuck Hayes and James Johnson. Coach Keith Smart, however, didn't remove the backups immediately. By the time he reinserted DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings had regained the lead, 37-31. And Thornton and Johnson had begun to play better.
Johnson finished with nine points, a season-high nine rebounds and two blocks in the 97-93 win.
"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive, especially at the four (position, power forward)," Johnson said. "I know I can take most of the fours to the rack pretty easy."
Smart remained patient, and it didn't cost the Kings. The second unit has struggled to score, and Smart has tried to keep Cousins or Tyreke Evans on the court with the reserves.
But he wanted to save them for later, and the bench didn't let the game get out of hand.
"It went bad early; it wasn't in the middle of the quarter," Smart said. "I knew I wanted to rest (the starters) from a back-to-back, and I knew I wanted to see (if we could) manage ourselves, and I thought James had some nice moves and drives to the basket that sustained us."
Thornton scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the second quarter.
"It's always good when you're making shots," Thornton said.
Stitched up Thomas Robinson was hit in the mouth by an elbow from Charlotte guard Ramon Sessions that ended his night.
It happened as the first quarter ended and left the rookie holding his mouth before the training staff could get to him.
After an X-ray, Robinson returned to the bench with 10 stitches in his upper lip.
Smart said Robinson was OK, but with Johnson having a solid game, the coach stayed with Johnson the rest of the game.
"I thought (Robinson) would have had a good chance to play with high energy in this game tonight, and that shot kind of set him back," Smart said. "We'll get him ready for our next game."