There hasn’t been a lot of positive news for the Sacramento Kings lately, but Marcus Thornton’s night against the Indiana Pacers was a small reprieve in a disappointing first half of the year.
Thornton lit up the NBA’s best defense to the tune of 42 points behind 16-of-27 shooting from the field and a 7-of-15 clip from behind the three-point line. The Pacers won the game 116-111 in overtime, but it was Thornton’s and teammate Isaiah Thomas' performances that drew the headlines.
The Pacers led the league in points per game allowed heading into the contest with Sacramento, and the Kings were missing Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. That means the stifling defense of Indiana focused most of its attention on Thornton and Thomas, which makes their night all the more impressive.
Both Gay and Cousins are dealing with minor injuries.
ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that Thornton’s first half alone was more imposing than just about everything else we have seen from him during the 2013-14 season:
Marcus Thornton has 26 points in the 1st half (he hadn't scored more than 24 in a game this season).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 25, 2014
Thornton cracked the 20-point barrier before the first quarter was even over, which would be notable for any player. However, considering the fact that he averaged 7.3 points a game behind 36 percent shooting from the field and 29.5 percent shooting from downtown coming into the game, it was particularly noteworthy from Thornton.
With the Kings’ season looking rather bleak going forward, Thornton’s performance may boost his trade value. Hoops Rumors notified us that he is on the trading block:
Marcus Thornton Remains On Trade Block http://t.co/JX2FVm0DBg— Hoops Rumors (@HoopsRumors) January 24, 2014
Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors explains how he sees the Kings' efforts to move Thornton playing out:
Sacramento has Ben McLemore, the seventh overall pick from this past June, seemingly penciled in as the shooting guard of the future, so it doesn’t appear there’s much of a call for Thornton on the Kings. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if D’Alessandro hangs on to Thornton through the deadline and tests the market for him again in the summer, when his expiring contract would probably net more in return.
However, if Thornton can put together a couple more performances like the one he had against the Pacers, the Kings may be able to get back more than they originally thought for the shooting guard in any trade.
Thornton wasn't the only Sacramento player that exploited the Pacers typically excellent defense.
Thomas scored an impressive 38 points of his own and was critical in the Kings' winning efforts. His quickness was too much for the likes of George Hill and Lance Stevenson to handle throughout the game.
Thomas' impressive performance wasn't quite as surprising as Thornton's. The Sacramento point guard was averaging nearly 20 points a night coming into the game with the Pacers, and he was shooting better than 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from downtown.
On paper, this Sacramento team has plenty of talent if Thomas and Thornton perform like this. With Gay and Cousins also in the fold, it's not much of a stretch to see the Kings giving contenders like the Pacers trouble in the season's second half.