Even though this was preseason, I felt that the Kings really needed a win. They outplayed the Warriors for most of the game with the exception of the second quarter and a period spanning the third and fourth. But they pulled it together and finished strong, to the delight of the home crowd, which was pretty respectable for a preseason game. There were some Warriors fans in the house, but they were a pretty small minority.
One of the first things to note is the score: less than 200 total points in a Kings-Warriors contest. When was the last time that happened? The Kings really played good defense for most of the game. They contested shots very well most of the time. The bench was terrible in the first half and let the Warriors back into the game, but redeemed themselves in the second half with a solid performance.
The Kings demolished the Warriors on the boards: 56-38 overall and 18-8 on the offensive glass. Not that the Dubs are a great rebounding team, but the Kings really got it done on the boards the entire game. They also blocked 11 shots, which we’re not used to seeing either.
Obviously turnovers was the single biggest issue: 24 TOs to 17 assists will usually result in a loss. Fortunately, the Kings were so dominant on the boards and were solid enough on defense that they could overcome such a horrendous A/TO ratio. There was one point in the late 3rd early 4th where it seemed like the Kings turned to ball over on every single possession, which resulted in a lead evaporating pretty quickly. It was as if the turnover bug suddenly bit. But they tightened it up, taking pretty good care of the ball the rest of the way, which helped them cruise to the win.
And now onto the individual performances.
Jason Thompson: JT was off-the-charts awesome tonight. He was always around the basket when the ball was, and it showed in his stat line: 20 points and 20 boards, plus five dimes, two blocks, and 9-17 shooting. Wow! This guy came to play. Admittedly it’s just preseason, and there are many months of basketball ahead. But this has to at least give pause to some of the doubters who think the Kings should have taken Randolph instead of JT. Randolph played fairly well, if quietly, and he does have freakish athleticism, but JT absolutely dominated tonight, and those two were matched against each other for much of the game.
Spencer Hawes: Spence had a very good game on both ends, IMO. He is very crafty at being able to get open shots with either hand down low. The problem is that they are not falling, which seems correctable. He missed several point blank hook shots, but they were not bad shots, they were good ones. He just missed. And he was active on defense, though not dominant. He also has one monstrous block (out of three total) that got the crowd pretty jazzed. Unfortunately I think a bit of Brad Miller rubbed off on him in that he complains to the refs far too much.
Desmond Mason: Dude couldn’t hit a shot but he was very active on defense, which is why Coach played him for 27 minutes.
Kevin Martin: K-Mart did it again. He had 28 points before anyone noticed. He just quietly puts up points in bunches. And he was especially effective at getting players to foul him, and he made it count: 15-15 from the line made for a bit of redemption after his 2-6 performance against Hell-A. It didn’t matter who guarded him, the result was generally the same. Frankly I didn’t notice him much on defense, for better or worse, so his performance there was probably adequate, no more, no less. (Late edit: I actually do remember a key steal by Kev. Mikki tossed a lazy pass to Curry, and K-Mart appeared suddenly, darting into the passing lane and dashing down court for the easy lay-in. In fact, that was a key play in the Kings putting away the Dubs late.)
Tyreke Evans: Reke had a bit of trouble finishing at the rim tonight, but he made up for it by hitting his jumpers. His shot looked very respectable, especially in the second half. At one point, after Reke hit something like his third jump shot in a row, I saw Coach smile and point to one of his assistant coaches as if to say "He’s coming along. We need him to keep doing that." (Or so I imagined.) The problem he had was turnovers: 6 in all. And they came in a variety of ways, bad passes, getting caught in traffic and coughing it up, traveling. But the problems all struck me as rawness more than deficiency. And as for getting to the rim, the Warriors generally could not stop him, especially in the first half. He sort of voluntarily stopped slashing when he kept not finishing, after which time he settled for jumpers. On defense, he created all kinds of havoc in the half court against the smaller Dubs’ guards. Damn is this guy going to be good.
Beno Udrih: A tale of two halves for Beno. Terrible in the first and respectable in the second. He continues to be very good at getting in position to take mid-range shots, which are his bread-and-butter (even though he missed two wide open ones that he usually hits). He even showed up on D tonight, which is one reason Coach left him in for 22 minutes.
Omri Casspi: The Playa from Judea is an absolute pest on defense. He was all over ex-Cap’n Jack, who was getting really pissed off. Casspi is constantly slapping at the ball, getting his hands in the opponent’s dribbling space, and tangling with his man off the ball. On offense he was ragged at times and had way too many TOs, but he did sink a few key shots. He is also fiery as hell out there. (We also caught him using the Lord’s name in vain.) I don’t see him as a starter anytime soon, but hopefully he will be able to fill Cisco’s shoes off the bench.
Donté Greene: Doratio really looked like he was trying to take in Coach’s admonition to become a defensive stopper. He was very active on D, though not much of a factor on offense. And here is one thing of significance that I noticed. On the defensive end, I saw Donté trying to be a leader in that he was the only Kings who talked consistently on D. I have said this before and it bears repeating. For all of his head-casery, Ron-Ron talked constantly on defense. After he left, no one did---not "Silent John" Salmons, not Kevin, no one. The team still needs a lot more of that, but it was encouraging to see Té attempt to fill that roll.
Jon Brockman: My friend who accompanied me to the game leaned over to me at one point and said: "That guy does not look like a basketball player." The comment was not entirely negative, because what he looks like is a rugby player. He is a big bruiser who is not very fluid, throws ugly passes, and looks a bit lost when he is away from the basket. But the guy is just a force off the glass: 4 boards in 8 minutes. He also struggled to defend the speedy Dubs, especially in transition, which had to be one reason why he didn’t get many minutes.
Sean May: Took one ill-advised three-point jumper, blocked two shots, and did not play at all in the second half. Evidently coach saw a serious match-up problem.
Andres Nocioni: Three minutes, no shots, no points, one foul, one turnover. Something was not right with Noc tonight, but I’m not quite sure what.
Sergio Rodriguez: DNP–Coach’s Decision. Not sure why. Did seem fairly interested in the Royal Court Dancers though.
Francisco Garcia: Cisco was in the house, and he looked to be in good spirits. But it hurt just to see the poor guy with a huge club of a cast on his arm. I've been there, and I really felt for the guy.
Paul Westphal: It is just such a relief to have a coach who knows what he’s doing, is not a slave to his own ego, is not in over his head, and doesn’t have a drinking problem. I just got a really good feeling watching him mentor his players and otherwise run things from the sideline. Also, he does not complain to the refs unless there is a really egregious call. I know it's early, and the real tests come later, but so far I really like what I’m seeing.
Damn it’s nice to get a win.