John Salmons fared well in his first stint in the Sacramento Kings’ starting lineup before returning to a reserve role. Given another chance in the starting five, Salmons is again making the most of his opportunity.
He looks to continue his strong play as the Kings close a five-game road trip Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Salmons opened the season as a starter while forward Ron Artest served a seven-game suspension for pleading no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. In those seven games, Salmons averaged 20.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting 49 percent from the field.
Despite that performance, Salmons was the odd man out when Artest returned. Salmons managed to crack the starting five again, though, after Kevin Martin injured his groin two weeks ago. Martin is expected to miss two-to-four more weeks.
In seven starts filling in for Martin, Salmons is averaging 18.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting 55.1 percent from the field. He was 13-for-18 on Tuesday, delivering 31 points to lead Sacramento (10-14) to a 106-101 victory at New Jersey.
“My teammates got the ball to me and gave me the chance to go one-on-one and I got a lot of good chances,” Salmons said. “(New Jersey) has three All-Stars and we knew that it was going to be tough to come in here and beat them. It’s definitely a quality win.”
The 31 points were a career high for the sixth-year swingman, but his most critical play may have been a pass to Francisco Garcia in the closing seconds of the game. Salmons drove the lane and drew the defense, then kicked out to Garcia, who made a 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining to secure the win.
“It went exactly as planned,” said Garcia, who had 24 points and a career-high five 3-pointers. “Coach told me to stand right there and not move and that the ball would come back to me. It felt good coming out of my hand.”
The Kings were winless in their first nine road games, but they’ve won two of their last three and are 2-2 on their current trip.
Finishing the trip with a win, however, could be a challenge. The Bucks (10-14) have dropped 12 of 14 road games this season, but they are 8-2 at the Bradley Center.
The Bucks suffered their sixth consecutive road loss with a 104-99, double-overtime defeat Monday night at Cleveland. It was also their 10th loss in 13 games overall after a 7-4 start.
“It was a tough loss for us,” Milwaukee guard Michael Redd said. “Give Cleveland credit. They made some big plays, but it’s a game we should have won. There’s no doubt about it.”
Redd shot poorly on Monday, making only 7 of 22 field-goal attempts, but he had nine assists for the third time in four games. He hadn’t recorded more than eight in his first 465 career games.
Redd led all scorers with 24 points in these teams’ first meeting Dec. 10, but the Bucks lost 96-93 at Sacramento - their 11th loss in their last 13 games against the Kings.
Salmons started that game and had 22 points while shooting 9-for-14 from the field.