PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Isaiah Thomas celebrates after the Kings overcame a nine-point deficit to take the lead late in the fourth quarter Sunday night.

Thomas, Kings rally to beat Houston

Published: Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 - 7:58 am

Isaiah Thomas is still learning the nuances of NBA point guard play.

He began Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets trying to set up his teammates. Thomas had four assists through three quarters but had missed 4 of 5 shots and had only six points.

But when it was time to win the game, Thomas used his offense to propel the Kings to a 117-111 win over the Houston Rockets at Sleep Train Arena.

It was the Kings' second win at home in as many nights and the first time they swept consecutive-night home games since Feb. 1 and 2, 2008, with wins over New Orleans and Chicago.

Thomas scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and used his aggressiveness to induce Rockets guard Jeremy Lin to foul out.

Lately, Thomas has taken the responsibility of speeding up Sacramento's offense. In the back-to-back home games, the Kings scored a combined 237 points, 48 by Thomas.

The Kings had gone eight consecutive games without scoring at least 100 points, losing seven.

Thomas said he looked to "force the issue" in the fourth quarter. After the Kings fell behind by nine in the fourth, they closed the game on a 29-14 run. Thomas said speeding up the game was a key.

"We've got to be an up-tempo team," Thomas said. "We're not really a good halfcourt team, so it works in our favor when we push the tempo, and that starts with me. I realized that by watching film and seeing things."

Thomas finished with 23 points and six assists and matched his career high with 13 made free throws (in 13 attempts). John Salmons also had 23 points and six assists. He scored 10 points in the final period.

The other six points in the fourth quarter came from Francisco Garcia, who with fellow reserve Chuck Hayes played most of the period.

Salmons said the Kings have to follow Thomas' lead when he decides to speed up the tempo.

"It forces me to run when I see him pushing the ball," Salmons said. "That's good for us. … "

And even though the Kings allowed 111 points, they were pleased with their defense to finish the game.

That's why Kings coach Keith Smart stuck with Thomas, Salmons, Garcia, Hayes and Jason Thompson down the stretch.

After the Rockets shot 65 percent (13 of 20) in the third quarter, the Kings limited Houston to 42.3 percent (11 of 26) in the fourth.

"I thought that group on the floor late in the game did all of the right things defensively," Smart said. " … I think they turned the game around and kept us in striking distance. We were able to make the defensive stops, but we were also able to make plays, and that got us the win."

That meant the Kings' two leading scorers weren't needed to finish the game.

DeMarcus Cousins played 21 seconds in the fourth quarter and picked up his fifth foul. Tyreke Evans didn't play in the fourth. Cousins had 20 points and seven rebounds. Evans had six points, four rebounds and four assists.

Hayes finished with a season-high 12 rebounds.

The Kings (19-33) made 26 of 27 free throws (96.3 percent), their best percentage of the season.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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