I was really scared about this game. I didn't feel like the Kings were being disrespected when the national media appointed them as the 'best bet' for the Nets to break their losing streak. Jersey played Denver, Portland, Sacramento, and LA in this road trip, who's the worse team out of that bunch? I understood where these 'experts' were coming from and that's why I was scared. If I was a Nets players I knew I needed to come out strong and play my heart out to get a win in Sac.
I was also scared because I felt the team got a little complacent with the winning streak and the win against NY just a couple days ago could've created a sense of overconfidence on these guys. Luckily, this wasn't the case and the Kings came out for the kill against Jersey. They did exactly what they needed to do in the first half, and though, they let the Nets gets back in it (credit goes to them as well), they were still able to hold them and make key baskets and put the game away at the end.
Heading to Arco I was a bit worried about attendance and it was actually kinda sad when I realized there were no cops directing traffic around the arena before the game. I guess they weren't expecting that many people to attend the game; fortunately they were wrong. Though the parking lot looked a bit empty, inside Arco looked decent. There were many sections that were close to full, especially in the upper deck, and for the most part the crowd was pretty animated. Even when the Nets were coming back, we were making an effort to get behind the team and push them a bit. Can't lie, it felt pretty cool.
The game was a bit of a tale of two halves. The first one, the Kings played near perfect ball, at least it looked like that to me. They came out firing, playing awesome defense, and rebounding the hell out of the ball. Reke and Hawes both scored a bunch in the first quarter and were making it look easy. Everyone on the floor was contributing and executing. The Nets were a bit letargic and Lawrence Frank made sure to let them know (he's one animated coach, I truly feel bad because he doesn't deserve to get fired but that's the way the ball rolls sometimes). Jersey had to work for every basket they got and aside from just a few defensive breakdowns (really small ones) the team had a good half on the D end.
The second half was definitely more even. I don't think the Kings stopped playing as much as the Nets started to play. This Jersey team is talented and you can't say enough how much their record does not reflect the quality of their players. I felt bad for them because they look a great group of guys that had to go through a lot of stuff to begin the season and may now go down as a really bad club in the record books. So I thought they started playing better. Devin Harris began getting to the line and making shots (he was 1 of 7 in the first half) and they began evening out the rebounding count. I thought that was key. We outrebounded the Nets by at least 15 boards in the first half and when they started to make their run, the got within 4-3 boards in the total count. They were going to make a run, we all knew that, but they never got too close and that credit goes to the Kings. They did seem to get nervous a couple times but when shots started to go down to stop their runs they went back to playing comfortable and were able to put the game away at the end.
Some players notes:
Tyreke: I thought he had a good start to the game, getting to the rim and helping with the ball movement. I could be wrong, but I think they switched Trenton Hassel on him and that might have slowed him down a bit. He was still very solid and the shot was falling for most of the game. He still has the tendency to pound the ball a bit too much, I especially saw that when the Nets were coming back and we needed to score. He probably felt like he needed to do it all and that's where he tried to do too much. At the same time, the players around him are not moving enough and Reke is not to blame for that. Another thing he needs to improve is in moving the ball on the break. It's like he decides he;sgoing to attack by himself and doesn't change his mind even when teammates are open. Just little things to improve on. Aside from that, dude looks like a veteran out there. That 3 he had to push the lead to 11 midway through the 4th was a superstar shot, IMO, and made sure to let everyone around me know that.
Spencer: Like Reke he was on fire in the first quarter (the first half really). He did an awesome job on Lopez, making him work for every bucket he got. He was there for all 24 mintes in the first half I believe and showed how good he can be on both sides of the floor. He showed his whole arsenal to score the basket and every different type of shot seemed to go down at least once. Quick note: if you want him to stop shooting the 3 then better root for a another team because that's one thing that makes him unique. If that's what a "not a true 5" does, then sign me up for more "not a true 5" games like this.
JT: Nasty fall the one he took. Crowd got up and booed the hell out of Brook Lopez (who wifey said has a hot chick's name - Lindsey Hunter All Stars for all you Sports Guy's fans). I didn't think it was a dirty play but the hard foul + JT's momentum = hard ass fall. As for his game, he was quiet but still somehow effective. What I'm loving about this team, and JT is a great example of right now, is that whenever someone else has it going, the other players have no problem becoming the role players. JT was awesome the first couple games and definitely a top player for the team, but now that others like Spencer, Donte, and even Omri have it going, he's cool with just playing hard D, grabbing those boards, and letting the game come to him on offense. Some will call it regressing, I call it helping your team.
Beno: Draino was the main dude tonight. Everytime the Kings needed a bucket he came through. Mr. reliable hit almost every one of his shots (8 of 10) and they were all in crucial parts of the game. He pushed the lead, stoped the bleeding, and iced the game. My MVP for the game, the Kings do not win this game without Beno.
Omri: Hack-a-jew?? Really?? "Make 'em pay Omri, make 'em pay!" and he did. He's such a great talent and will only get better. I thought he did a good job at letting the game come to him and working hard on D. Like Reke, though, I thought he began to try waaay too hard when the NEts were making their run. He had a couple bad shots when we needed better plays. Rookie mistakes that will go away in time no doubt. Big props to coach Westphal for staying with him even when they were fouling on purpose. That's having confidence in your guy.
Donte: I actually thought Donte had a really good game. I was afraid he was going to come out shooting after his great performance against the Knicks but once again he proved how much of a different player he is. He only took 2 shots in 16 minutes of action (no 3 pointers) and had one board, 2 assist, and 2 blocks (there's D in Donte). He didn't get the numbers from last game but he proved more by showing his improved maturity and patience on the floor. I read somethig about his body language on the game thread but I didn't see it because I wasn't paying attention and was in upper deck so I can't comment on that.
Noce: I don't remember much from him to be honest. I think he forces the issue a bit too much at first. It works when the ball is going in (of course) but on games like this, he needs to help the team in other areas. The emergence of Omri and Donte are making him expendable by the second.
K-9: Woof! Brought the energy back when the Nets were getting close and did a good job on Lopez. He even hit some shoots (and FTs) that are always a bonus. He's there for defensive purposes so anytime he scores is great. I saw Spencer and JT on the bikes but wasn;t sure what was going on and started to get pissed at PW for not putting Hawes back in. K-9 did such a good job that I calmed down. Now that I know Spencer hit his knee I'm cool with it, of course.
Sergio: I love the way he runs the team. He's a true PG!! He knows when to slow it down, when to attack, when to go fast, when to run and when to stop. He will always have TOs because of the nature of his play but he will also always have a lot of assist. The way he reads defenses is a great talent to have and it opens up the game for others. He's getting minutes that he has earned. If that's our 3rd string PG, then I'm pretty happy.
Brockman: He's such a simple player there's not much to say. He came in, grabbed some boards, played some D, made an awesome pass to Wabeno for a nice 3 (that brought the house down), and that was that. He does his job and we love him for it. Simple dude.
May: I felt bad for May because he came in when the team needed stops and buckets and he could't really do any of it. His timing was off and he didn't help by missing a couple shots and having that TO. The crowd got on him quick because we needed more at that point of the game and he just couldn't provide that. I don't think it was his fault, just bad timing to get him burn.
Coach Westphal: I don't think we should ezpect any kind of set rotation any time soon and I'm actually ok with that. He goes with his gut, stays with what works, and so far we are overachieving for it. He needs to do a lot of wrong before I question anything the coaching staff does. I mean, Reke, Omri, Donte, JT, Hawes, Beno, even K-9, all different players and I give the coaching staff a great deal of credit. These kids work hard because the leadership from the top is doing a good job.
General observation about the Kings: It's so crazy, but this team has so many weapons and they all bring something different; the versatility of these guys is truly amazing and makes me dream of what will be. Add Kevin, Cisco, and next year's lottery pick and watch out.
Ohh yeah, about those guys...
Cisco: Nice suspenders dude. Wifey said you look like a pimp
Kevin Martin: Soft!!! Nuff said.
Though not an all around effort, from beggining to end, the team did exactly what they needed to do to win against a hungry team. I left Arco satisifed, with an improved record of 3-0 when I attend games, and with a great gift to a pretty cool birthday. I don't ask for more.