The entire second half, I waited and waited for the inevitable Kings falter. I knew the team would lose this game in spite of Kevin Martin's stellar performance. Sacramento doesn't win shoot-outs on the road against teams with marksmen and rebounders. Just doesn't happen.
It took a long time for the Kings to fall apart -- 45 minutes in all. The Kings led by six with about three minutes left, and Danny Granger took over. The Kings got one decent-looking shot attempt the rest of the way (Martin's left corner three off an offensive rebound), and some free throws on an iffy foul call. After a game of solid offense, three minutes of mostly bad offense. And that's why the Kings don't win shoot-outs on the road. On the road, the Kings will suffer offensive droughts, inevitably. The Kings are awful defensively and won't stop a good offensive team more than a handful of times any given game.
The Kings almost surprised us. Kenny Natt putting his trust in Jason Thompson and Bobby Brown for key stretches. Francisco Garcia playing incredibly smart in the fourth quarter after an awful first quarter. Kevin Martin refusing to relent, no matter how many defenders Indy sent. John Salmons refusing to be discouraged by Danny Granger's immense talent. Brad Miller doing his job and not whining despite getting pushed by Jeff Foster.
But again, that's not meant to be. Unfortunately, New Jersey -- the team's Monday opponent -- is a carbon copy of Indiana: fast, potent, defenseless. There's little shelter in trying to mold the game into a halfcourt affair: that benefits the Kings offense thanks to Martin, Salmons and Miller, but would allow Devin Harris to run roughshod over the Sacramento point guard brigade. Instead, we'll probably end up with a rerun, so long as Martin's hand stays ablaze today. (Martin's playmaking deserves special mention as well: six assists, none of them cheap ... which is to say most of them resulted in lay-ups or wide-open short jumpers. A few too many turnovers, but dang. He was practically the point guard out there.)
Apologies if this post sounds pessimistic. I feel good. Martin explosions always put a bounce in my step. The offense is back. I'm happy. This team's just not ready yet.