Rodriguez scores 24, gives Kings another option at the point
SACRAMENTO – Seldom used in the first 12 games of the season, Sacramento Kings guard Sergio Rodriguez is currently making a huge statement for more playing time.
A flashy playmaker who played the previous three years in Portland, Rodriguez was a difference-maker off the bench Sunday night for the Kings.
Rodriguez scored a career-high 24 points and Jason Thompson had 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Kings won their third straight game with a 112-96 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
The Kings’ third option at point guard behind rookie Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih, Rodriguez is averaging 15.2 points in the past four games. His performance against the Hornets matched his point total through the first 12 games this season.
“There are only so many point guard minutes we have, but the way Sergio has played lately he’s kicked the door down,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “It’s going to be harder and harder not to play him.”
Rodriguez made two 3-pointers and converted 9 of 14 shots overall. He also had five assists, two rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers in 24 minutes.
“I feel very comfortable playing here, I don’t worry about going out and making things happen, I just play my game,” Rodriguez said. “For me, the important thing is when I get in he (Westphal) just lets me play.”
The Kings took the lead for good early in the second quarter and led the remainder of the game in upping their home record to 7-2. The Kings can complete a perfect four-game homestand with a victory Wednesday over Indiana.
Thompson helped the Kings establish an inside game early and it helped open up the perimeter. Sacramento shot 54 percent and converted 9 of 18 3-point attempts.
“You have to give them a lot of credit,” James Posey said. “They were able to execute with the high screen-and-roll and we didn’t stop them. They were able to keep making plays out of it.”
Evans had 14 points and Andres Nocioni and Udrih each added 13 for the Kings, who moved to .500 with a surprising 8-8 record.
“It’s exciting the way we are playing right now,” Thompson said. “Everyone is tuned in. We have a lot of guys coming off the bench now and contributing. Hopefully we can keep things going.”
David West scored 24 points for the Hornets, who had won four of their previous five. Emeka Okafor had 20 points and nine rebounds, and Darren Collison had 11 points and six assists.
After making a 3-pointer to put Sacramento ahead 102-87 with 3:06 remaining, Rodriguez joyously leaped on the back of teammate John Brockman heading into a timeout.
“I haven’t had a 20-point game since I was a rookie, so that (3-pointer) was a great moment for me,” Rodriguez said.
Former King Peja Stojakovic missed the game for personal reasons but may rejoin the Hornets in time for Tuesday’s away game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Kings played without starting center Spencer Hawes, who bruised his right knee in Friday’s win over New Jersey.
Trailing by 12 points at the half, Okafor helped get the Hornets closer in the third quarter. He made all six shots and scored 13 points as the Hornets closed to 82-74 heading into the fourth.
“There were stretches where some of our turnovers were hard to understand,” Hornets coach Jeff Bower said. “A couple of those we would really like to have back.”
Thompson had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Kings, who pulled away with a 31-19 second quarter to assume a 57-45 halftime lead.
NOTES: Kenny Thomas started in place of Hawes, his first start since Dec. 12,2007. … Two-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul is sidelined indefinitely with a sprained ankle, but was vocal throughout the game on the Hornets bench. … A reserve guard, Rodriguez played the entire second quarter and had 11 points, three assists and two steals.
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