Sports

Thornton’s big night helps Kings beat Nets

For a month, Kings coach Michael Malone talked about how Marcus Thornton might thrive like a player he watched his father, Brendan, coach in Detroit.

Vinnie Johnson was one of the most prolific bench scorers for the Pistons during the 1980s, helping Detroit win back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990. He picked up the nickname “The Microwave” for how quickly he could heat up offensively.

Wednesday night, Thornton was Malone’s “Microwave” for the first time this season. And for the first time this season, Thornton went on one of his trademark scoring binges to lead the Kings to a 107-86 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Sleep Train Arena.

Thornton broke out of his early-season slump by scoring a season-high 24 points off the bench.

“If I could have written a script for (Wednesday), it would have played out just how it played out,” Malone said. “Marcus, he was aggressive, he took his shots, he shot the ball with confidence, and I’m very happy for him and I’m happy for our guys because they have been working hard.”

The Kings (2-5) ended a five-game losing streak with easily their most complete effort of the season. They defended and played with the energy Malone expects every night, holding Brooklyn to 37.8 percent shooting.

On offense the Kings played at a fast pace against the older Nets squad and shared the ball. Thornton led the way.

“After the game, I told Marcus that maybe I should’ve put him on the bench sooner with that performance,” Malone said.

Thornton entered the game shooting 33.3 percent and admitted the struggles had gotten to him. Malone said last week Thornton sent him a text message essentially apologizing for his play.

“He’s struggled and we all know that,” center DeMarcus Cousins said. “And he’s really been beating himself up about it. To just see come back and perform the way he did (Wednesday) was a big thing.”

Thornton had plenty of encouragement before the game to break out of his slump.

“The first couple of games, I was just out there thinking too much and not playing my game,” Thornton said. “ ... (Wednesday) my mom called me, my brothers called me, everybody called me just telling me to relax and play your game. And that’s what I tried to do, and that’s what I’m going to try to do from here on out.”

Three days of speculation over the starting lineup ended with Thornton being replaced at shooting guard by rookie Ben McLemore and Patrick Patterson being replaced at power forward by Jason Thompson.

The change was good against the Nets as Patterson (eight points, 10 rebounds) also responded well to the change. Thompson had nine points and 11 rebounds. McLemore struggled in his first start with two points on 1-for-8 shooting.

The Kings finished with season highs in points, field goals made (41), field goals attempted (94), total rebounds (50), defensive rebounds (38) and assists (26).

Greivis Vasquez had 12 assists, the most by a King since Beno Udrih had 13 on Feb. 25, 2011, at Charlotte.

Isaiah Thomas added 19 points off the bench. He has scored in double figures in all seven games. According to Stats LLC, that’s the third most games in double figures off the bench to start the season in franchise history, matching Spud Webb. Walt Williams holds the record with nine games.

The Kings had lost their previous five games against the Nets (2-5), who fell to 0-4 on the road.

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NEXT GAME

FRIDAY VS. DETROIT

Time: 7:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

ON PAGE C5

Nets forward Kevin Garnett, a 15-time All-Star, praises Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.

MORE PHOTOS

View a gallery from Wednesday's game. sacbee.com/sportsphotos

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