Marcus Thornton thought he was past the days when he had to prove he was a solid NBA player. So this season has been tough.
Thornton was the Kings’ leading scorer two seasons ago, but this season he’s gone from starting to not knowing if he will play in a game.
Thornton played Saturday, sparking the Kings with 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter of Sacramento’s 105-100 win over the Orlando Magic at Amway Center.
The win ended a three-game losing streak and was Sacramento’s third road victory in 11 away games. The Kings ended their four-game trip 1-3.
The win gave Thornton a chance to show he can still score in bunches, which is what he does best.
“It’s kind of frustrating at this point and time in my career to still have to go through this type of stuff but, hey, things happen,” Thornton said. “I just try to stay engaged, and whenever my name’s called, go out there and do work.”
Thornton had played 16 minutes in the Kings’ previous four games. But rookie Ben McLemore was in foul trouble trying to defend Orlando’s leading scorer, Arron Afflalo, and that left a chance for Thornton.
Thornton made three 3-point shots to help the Kings take a 93-81 lead with 7:41 to play.
“I just gave (Thornton) a lot of love in the locker room,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “Not just because of the way he played tonight, but because he’s been an unbelievable pro during this process. He went from being a starter to a guy off the bench to out of the rotation. And to his credit, what being a true pro is all about, he continued to work hard, he supported his teammates and he was was ready when given the opportunity, and he shined (Saturday) and he deserves that.”
Thornton has struggled shooting this season. He’s shooting 37 percent, and 29.8 percent from 3-point range. Thornton shot 6 for 10 Saturday and made 3 of 6 3-point tries.
Thornton said his shot felt good during warmups, and he knew if he could get into the game and get some touches on offense he could be in for a good shooting night. Plus, he hadn’t played much so he was “fresh.”
Thornton said he hasn’t lost confidence in his abilities.
“No confidence issues,” Thornton said. “I’ve been doing this for too long. Missing shots is always frustrating for a player, but I never lost confidence. I know why I was missing shots. I was thinking too much, not doing what got me here. I just have to go out there and play free, let the chips fall where they may.”
Thornton’s game helped the scoring load that was carried by Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas, who each had 23 points. Thomas also had nine assists. DeMarcus Cousins had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Thomas said even though he hasn’t been playing, Thornton has been a good teammate.
“Just be ready. You never know what’s going to happen. You never know if coach is going to call your name or if he’s not,” Thomas said. “And he’s been ready. He hasn’t been in the rotation, but he’s been professional about it. He’s been getting his work in, he’s been working hard, he’s been cheering on his teammates and everything. When his name was called tonight, he was ready and he helped us get this win (Saturday).”
The game started out like it might be another where the Kings (8-18) give up well over 100 points. The Magic (8-19) scored 31 points in the first quarter and looked on its way to a big second quarter before the Kings went on a 14-4 run before halftime to make it 58-56 in favor of Orlando.
Afflalo led the Magic with 26 points. Tobias Harris added 21 points.