Keith Smart took over the Sacramento Kings early Thursday, negotiated a new two-year contract, met with his team and, oh yeah, had to coach a basketball game in the evening. With incredibly little lead time after replacing Paul Westphal, Smart told his team go out and play aggressively in its fifth game and six nights, a hosting of the Milwaukee Bucks.
In the second half, the Kings did just that. Sacramento trailed 58-37 at halftime, suffering from the same afflictions that felled the team under Westphal: poor transition defense, awful passing and terrible shooting. But the Kings fought back, creeping into range in the third and completing the comeback in the fourth with a 103-100 win.
Tyreke Evans scored 26 points with 10 rebounds and five assists on the game as Smart relied on small lineups. Marcus Thornton was the team's scoring stud in the second half, racking up 25 points on 9-15 shooting in playing the entire final two quarters. He finished with 27 on the game.
DeMarcus Cousins, who famously had run-ins with Westphal, had a monster game with 19 points and 15 rebounds. He fouled out late in the fourth after less than 28 minutes of play, but Smart showed strong trust in him not to be eliminated too early as the young center stayed in the game with four fouls in the third.
The Bucks were again missing Andrew Bogut, who is tending personal, non-injury matters in Australia, but did get former King Beno Udrih back. Milwaukee was led by Brandon Jennings, who had 31 points on 12-23 shooting with seven assists and five steals. Drew Gooden added 18 points and nine rebounds. The Bucks shot abnormally well (51 percent), but matched Sacramento's high turnover count (20, to 19 for the Kings) and got killed on the boards despite the Kings' small lineups. Sacramento grabbed 23 offensive rebounds in 47 opportunities while holding Milwaukee to seven in 39.
The Bucks fell to 2-4 while the Kings rose to 3-5.